PALM DESERT, Calif.—When Patrick O'Loughlin was appointed CEO of Buckeye Power and the Ohio statewide association of electric cooperatives in 2015, one of his clear priorities was to enrich the communications efforts of the state's co-ops.

The work he did earned O'Loughlin the 2018 J.C. Brown CEO Communication Leadership Award, presented Jan. 8 at NRECA's CEO Close-Up.

The initiative started with forming a team of Buckeye Power and statewide association employees, led by Doug Miller, vice president of statewide services, with collaboration from Ohio's member cooperatives. Soon after, a three-year strategic communications plan was created, along with the organization's new brand: Ohio's Electric Cooperatives.

"I'm pleased to accept the 2018 J.C. Brown CEO Communication Leadership Award on behalf of the employees of Ohio's Electric Cooperatives," O'Loughlin told fellow electric co-op leaders after receiving the award from NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.

"The transformation of our communications efforts is the result of our coming together around a shared vision and getting to work to tell our story," O'Loughlin added.

The letter nominating O'Loughlin cited his overseeing of a dramatic redesign of Ohio Cooperative Living magazine as well as OEC's active presence on several social media channels.

And it's not just at the statewide where communication efforts are being kicked up. In 2017, OEC helped six of its distribution members formulate strategic communications plans. OEC employees also visited several co-ops to audit internal communications.

J.C. Brown Award judges praised O'Loughlin's efforts, noting he "uses communications internally and externally to be transparent and inspire trust and confidence in the cooperative way of doing business." Another judge said O'Loughlin formed "a foundation to serve the communities of Ohio and educates anyone and everyone he can to be an advocate for the cooperative difference."

Each year, the Council of Rural Electric Communicators and the CCC Program Board bestow the Brown award as a key part of the Spotlight on Excellence Awards. Its namesake, J.C. Brown, was editor and publisher of RE Magazine.