Rules of (Customer) Engagement


#1 If a business has a story to tell, public relations is the way to tell it.

#2 If a business doesn’t have a story to tell—it does, or else it wouldn’t be in business—see #1.

Every business has something to sell and every CEO wants traffic in the door. Educating reporters and consumers about your business’s product/technology/service is vital to customer adoption (sales). The more the press understands what you do and the context in which you do it, they will be more apt to mention the business in relevant (and repeated) articles.

Of course, many executives don’t have the time nor the specific resources to become a media guru and that’s where PR comes in. Public relations is the practice of learning and listening to clients’ stories and then taking those golden message nuggets to the appropriate audiences. New product launch? Check. Customer wins? Check. New CEO? Check.   Regardless of whether a company is B2B or B2C, it’s important that the company’s messages are clear and reinforced in the minds of the right people.

From news releases and case studies to contributed articles and interview opportunities and social media campaigns, there are many ways to build a steady stream of excitement around your brand.  There’s no one-size-fits-all; the right approach is the one that meets the communication goals of the company.

We want all businesses to know that PR is not only applicable to them, but an important component in increasing sales.  Maybe a podcast is the right touch. Maybe the cover of a targeted trade magazine will get you in front of your prospects. Certainly, coverage in The New York Times wouldn’t hurt! Wherever you are in your communications efforts, it’s never too late (or early) to get public relations specialists involved in communicating your story.  And remember, PR builds your brand – not advertising. So if you want to improve sales, start with a focused PR program.

Whatever you do. . . Push the Green Button!


To meet a recent call to action from President Obama to develop a strategy to assist consumers in lowering their energy costs, several utilities across the country have been compiling customers’ energy usage data and organizing it into a uniform format as a part of the launch of the Green Button initiative.  The program aims to provide more than 15 million households the ability to track, monitor, and better understand their home energy usage in a straight forward, easy to understand layout.  On March 22nd, the White House issued a press release detailing the initiative, as well as several companies involved in advancing the unified Green Button formula to be more useful to home owners as well as applicable to other customer demographics including commercial buildings.

Working with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), EcoDog Inc. has developed a Green Button app that can quickly and easily make use of the utility’s data.  The app, which is a scaled down version of the company’s highly sophisticated FIDO home energy management system, allows home owners to take their personal energy consumption data provided by SDG&E’s  Green Button and view energy usage as well as potential energy savings from installing a solar system or charging of an electrical vehicle.  EcoDog’s fully-featured FIDO Home Energy Watchdog is an easy-to-use hardware/software system that shows homeowners exactly how and where they are consuming electricity on a real-time basis with room-by-room detail to achieve typical monthly savings of 15 to 30 percent and more. EcoDog’s FIDO system also offers advanced monitoring of solar and alternative energy generation.

While society has had its sights on becoming more energy efficient for some time, it’s a slow moving process and the first tool needed is education.  Having a firm understanding of your energy usage can allow you to make minor (or major) lifestyle changes that can greatly reduce your energy consumption.  The Green Button initiative gives home owners an introduction to home energy management and is a forward step in understanding energy consumption in a way that is more understandable and actionable.  Finally, it’s getting easier to be green!

Securing the Power Grid and Our Way of Life


There have been many stories of late about securing the grid against cyber threats, terrorism and unplanned outages. However, for most folks, these stories go unnoticed overshadowed by the latest antics of Hollywood actors, politicians or YouTube videos. Granted talking about the electrical grid is not the most glitzy of subjects (I should know, I’ve been talking about power for 20+ years while my friends’ eyes glaze over), but we as a society should be very interested and concerned about our electrical lifeline to the world. A few months back, San Diego had an unexpected blackout in the middle of the day – unexpected as there were no storms or heat waves – just a maintenance worker in a neighboring state pushing the wrong buttons.  Needless to say there was gridlock on local streets as traffic lights went out, gas pumps shut down because there was no power to run them, work stopped and plans for the evening were cancelled. It was an interesting look at human nature – what do we do when the things we take for granted every day are all of sudden unavailable?  Panic. How do I charge my cell phone? Yikes!

Securing the grid against human error and/or more nefarious actions needs to be a priority. Our appetite for energy is not going to go away. In fact, our need for electrical energy is exponentially increasing. It is our lifeline to the world and integral to our daily lives. Both investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and municipal-owned utilities (MOUs) are on the forward path to making the power grid more intelligent. However, the grid cannot be truly smart if it’s not secure. I propose that utilities need to be working on a parallel path in integrating data and communication infrastructure technologies that facilitate a more efficient and faster grid, while embedding security from the customer’s meter to a utility’s data center. Breaching the grid is serious and not only can the operation of the grid be compromised, but customer data as well. See article on “Data breach exposes info on NY utility customers.”  Fortunately, new reliability standards such as the North American Electric Corporation’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC CIP) security guidelines requiring a utility’s cyber assets be protected against threats are a step in the right direction.

Making the grid smart and secure is a must. Our way of life in the 21st century demands it.

What are your thoughts?

PJ Jennings

Green Energy: Simply Ponderous


In one of the LinkedIn Energy Forums I’m a member of (Linked:Energy  – great forum by the way), a question was posed: “Will green energy ever become the primary energy source?” This elicited a lot of commentary (Over 280 posts including one from yours truly) and even more discussions about defining green energy. The commenters all had great points, insights and passion about various technologies and political and business influence. As I reflect on the lively discussion, it makes me think how far we’ve come in just a decade. While some of the renewable technologies (solar, wind, hydro, etc.) have been around for some time, we’re finally getting to the point where adoption has increased and system costs are starting to come down. According to Ken Bossong, from SUN DAY Campaign, “Renewables now provide 12% of domestic energy production, 14% more than 2010; and renewable electrical output increased 25%, which contributes to 13% of U.S. power” (see Renewable Energy  World article: ). Yes, it will take some time to get the pricing down to where average consumers can take advantage of clean energy, but it seems we’re headed in the right direction. Right now, we need all the energy resources we can get our hands on. Our appetite for electricity will not be abated – think data centers, recharging millions of smart phones, IPads and the like. And, don’t forget about the advent of electric cars. Luckily, the evolution of the Smart Grid brings hope for a more intelligent electrical distribution system that will incorporate not only renewables and smarter instrumentation and monitoring, but faster and more secure communication networks and home area networks.

While the momentum for green energy adoption marches forward, energy efficient technologies are taking hold. From energy efficient computers, IT/networking gear and even the products that protect equipment from power outages are all much more efficient than a decade ago. While not as exciting as solar or wind or the myriad of other renewable technologies, being smarter and more efficient with our energy use is the best way to start on the path to energy independence. Baby steps will lead to giant leaps.

What do you think?

Happy marketing,

PJ Jennings

Like Kermit the Frog Said: It’s Not Easy Being Green


For the past decade, environmental issues have crept into corporate-speak. Eco-friendliness has gone from being a differentiator to a must-have for consumer companies. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Are corporations engaging in sustainable behavior because it’s the right thing to do or because they are forced to by public opinion? It’s important to care about motives because the tides change. If a company has made a “green” decision mostly or solely based on import prices and fuel surcharges then what happens when those prices come down?

In the Six Laws of Green Marketing, Colleen Kramer highlights why sustainability needs to be an integral part of the company and not just a temporary add-on. Her observation regarding the Patagonia company rings true: if you are genuinely trying to do the right thing, it’s OK to stumble in front of your audience. After all, the road to green is truly paved with good intentions. Patagonia’s transparency regarding greening the company’s logistics may be a compelling example to other companies leery of faltering; however, if companies continue to assess green initiatives with the same return-on-investment analysis they would use with any other capital project, many projects will fail before they are even started.

One of our clients, VYCON, has the good fortune of working with EasyStreet Online Services, a cloud, managed services and colocation provider in Oregon. Utilizing wind power and flywheel energy storage, EasyStreet has a long-standing green commitment and seized the opportunity to be a beacon of how to build energy efficient data centers. Reliability, sustainability and having a low carbon footprint are part of the ethos of the company – and they end up serving the company well, financially, when the energy bills come in.

If your company or your clients are looking to tout their eco-friendliness as a marketing ploy, remind them that this is the age of transparency. We counsel clients that small but genuine change is much more meaningful and has a longer-lasting impact on the company’s image, as well as the bottom line.

© Copyright Jennings & Associates Communications, Inc.