Rappahannock Electric Cooperative: Developing a Comprehensive Communication Plan
A rapid communication strategy exercise builds stakeholder consensus and prepares the utility to encourage customer adoptions of its smart-grid programs.
West Monroe developed an action-oriented communication strategy in four weeks that provided incremental benefits for REC in preparation of smart-grid program launch.
Industry:

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) is a memberowned utility that provides electric service to more than 154,000 connections in parts of 22 Virginia counties.

Preparing for customer transformation.
Based on solid understanding of its members and their preferences, REC knew what it wanted to offer for the next ten years. To ensure adequate adoption for its new programs, as outlined in its business case for American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, REC needed to make sure that it had a sound communication plan in place that:

  • Made smart grid relevant to members
  • Communicated changes and new programs in a positive way
  • Minimized dissatisfaction in the acquisition territory
  • Minimized member backlash
  • Increased chances for adoption of smart-grid program

Tapping an experienced partner.
For assistance with developing a communication strategy as part of its comprehensive smart-grid initiative, REC turned to West Monroe Partners. West Monroe Partners has been supporting REC with program management for its eight key smart-grid programs and had solid knowledge of the utility’s initiatives and member base. In addition, it demonstrated substantial experience assisting other utilities with communication planning and demand side management for their smart-grid programs, and it was well equipped to share best practices.

Facilitating consensus and then a detailed plan.
Over the course of four weeks, West Monroe Partners supported REC as the utility developed a comprehensive communication strategy to drive its smart-grid programs.

West Monroe Partners facilitated interactive sessions with a diverse group of REC stakeholders—helping the group reach consensus about:

  • Distinguishing aspects and benefits of its programs
  • Communication goals and objectives
  • Customer perceptions that could affect program success
  • Communication strategies—overall and for eight core programs—including audiences, channels, and timing
  • Key messages/talking points aligned with objectives

West Monroe Partners also provided REC with tools and best practices thatthe utility could use to implement the communication strategy, including:

  • Templates for developing communications
  • A five-year, high-level communication time line
  • Strategic briefs to assist the marketing and public relations team in drafting future messages
  • Recommended metrics for communication success

Moving forward with an action-oriented plan.
By working with West Monroe Partners, REC gained important team consensus about what to communicate to its members regarding smart-grid programs and came away with an action-oriented strategy that it can use to support its goals.

Although its smart-grid introduction will continue over the next several years, REC already has realized some quantifiable benefits through planned and proactive communication. For example, REC was able to avoid a spike in “troubled” calls to its call center as utility personnel conducted field work at members’ sites.

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