By: Lydia Walters, PHR, CCC
Communication & Human Resources Manager, Dixie Electric Power Association
"I've gathered strength behind my years, I owned them, I've earned them, I've deserved them, I have a right to have them," Sally Fields was quoted as saying in
Woman's World magazine.
The role of the electric cooperative communicator has evolved much the same way. In the 1980s, many electric cooperatives replaced their retiring home economist with communication professionals. Honestly, though, cooperative leaders weren't quite sure how to utilize their talents. These professionals could write, do a little desktop publishing and plan an event, but they were an afterthought in strategic or crisis planning for the cooperative.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, the internet made its debut, which began to change the role of the cooperative communicator in many ways. This evolution eventually brought about social media and concerns about ongoing direct communication with members.
We saw a string of potential crisis for electric cooperatives through the decades, from attempted takeovers in the 1980s to deregulation debates in the 1990s and climate change, environmental challenges in the 2000s. Combining these challenges with technological changes moved the communicator's role from event planner to a must have a strategic communicator.
I really see the role of the communicators among the electric cooperatives the same way that Sally Field reflects on her life. We fought hard through the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s to show our worth and earn a seat at the "table." We've earned it, and we have a right to be there.
Now, we see communicators becoming CEOs and leaders at every level because the role is vital for the cooperative's longevity and sustainability.
As we've discussed, the CCC Program is evolving because we, as a board, recognize the impactful role of communicators. The CCC mission is to build a well-equipped army of professionals who can carry the cooperative form of business through the next set of challenges and into the generations that follow.
Lydia Walters, CCC, PHR, MIP
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