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December 24, 2009
Op-Ed Pages Still Good Outlets for Corporate Explanations

Newspaper op-ed pages are still good places for companies to explain their policies, despite worrisome circulation losses at some papers and the closing of others.

An example of an instructive explanation -- therefore good PR -- comes from The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where David DeCampli, president of PPL Electric Utilities, discusses the question of what PPL's Central Pennsylvania customers are supposed to do as the utility's regulatory "rate caps" come off in 2010. DeCampli's advice: Shop for your power among competing suppliers; you may find a better rate than PPL can provide. (Unfortunately DeCampli's "As I See It" column hasn't yet made it to The Patriot-News Web site, so we can't link to it here.)

DeCampli's piece is clearly written -- the clearest we've seen yet on Pennsylvania's rising utility rates and what consumers can do to cushion them. The state's utilities have split into generation and distribution components. Plus, new generating sources have entered the market.

"If you don't choose another supplier in 2010, we're required by law to buy power for you," DeCampli explains. "We seek competitive bids from suppliers through a process approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. We award contracts. And we pass suppliers' prices on to you without profit. Those charges appear on the generation portion of your bill."

Good information, which makes for good PR at a time when Pennsylvania's formerly capped electric rates shoot upward in the state's new era of utility deregulation and competition. DeCampli doesn't explain how to find competing electricity suppliers. (PPL, bear in mind, also has a generation component.)  He does reference, though, PPL's Web site and those of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the Office of Consumer Advocate where information on rate shopping can be found as well as, at the latter two sites, lists of  licensed suppliers.

Remember your local newspaper as a place to explain your policies, and be as candid as possible when you appear there.  



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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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