By JuliAnn Graham, CCC, Communications Coordinator, Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC)
At TCEC, our leadership team believes strongly in the seven cooperative principles and incorporates them into our daily operations. We place special emphasis on helping our members understand how we are different and the value we provide. My role at TCEC is to incorporate the cooperative difference into our daily communications. I’d like to share a few ways we do that with my fellow CCCs.
Know the Principles
As Certified Cooperative Communicators, I’m sure many of you would agree that the process of studying for the exam brings home the principles. Studying for the exam in 2009 was when I became most familiar with the principles. I look for examples from other cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to keep them fresh in my mind. By knowing the principles and how they play out in our cooperative, I can better express them to our membership.
As a refresher, the seven principles are:
- Voluntary and Open Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Members’ Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training, and Information
- Cooperation among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community
Strategic Communications Plan
We state the cooperative principles as part of our purpose on our website and in our cooperative’s overall business plan. In our communications plan, we look for ways our efforts tie to them as we undergo the planning process.
Many activities we do every year tie strongly to the cooperative principles and present an opportunity to communicate them annually. When we plan our editorial calendar, we:
- Review past communications
- Find repetitive topics
- Look for ties to the principles
- Draft the calendar
- Review it regularly
When I write, I try to incorporate the cooperative difference into my articles whether I state it specifically or not. Some of the techniques I use to call attention to the principles are:
- Leads – I lead the story with a reference to a cooperative principle.
- Quotes – Have a leader reference the principle in a quote.
- Callouts – Set the principles apart from the regular body text with special emphasis
- Personalization – Put a face on the story and have the member talk about how the cooperative made a difference.
Everyone’s approach is different and our efforts at TCEC are still a work in progress. We constantly look for ways to improve. I’d love to hear ideas from my fellow CCCs on applying the cooperative difference to members. The Electric Cooperative Communicators Facebook page is a great place to share those. You can visit it at: https://www.facebook.com/CooperativeCommunicators. Or we can exchange ideas on the CCC listserv by emailing: email@example.com. That’s the Sixth Principle of Cooperation Among Cooperatives at its best!