Blogger: Erin Knothe (Dick Pope/Polk County)
Lunch Session: Listen to the C-Suite
Presented by: Alex Glenn, State President, Duke Energy; Moderator – Andy Corty, Publisher, Florida Trend
Note: Illness and flight challenges prevented two panel attendees from participating at the lunch session, but moderator Andy Corty from Florida Trend led an insightful discussion with Duke Energy’s State President, Alex Glenn.
How is public relations organized in the company?
The corporate communications team is centralized. Located all throughout the state, the staff directly reports to a vice president, but also communicates with Alex. They are an integral part of decision making. In addition to various regular meetings, Alex has Monday morning meetings with the Corporate Communications (CC) team and sometimes the Community Relations team to review what happened over the weekend, while also planning for upcoming events.
In regards to Florida’s severe weather, what types of communication plan does the company have?
Two general types of communication plans for emergencies:
Strategic plans for large emergencies, like hurricanes
Reactive plans for individual situations, like floods
For these types of emergencies, tools such as media messages, question & answers, press releases, and specific communication to customers, are used on a situational basis.
How does the CC team work with other departments?
The overall view of the company is the more transparency, the better. The CC team will come up with the needed strategies and language, which is then brought to the Legal department just to review that everything is up to regulations standards. Bad news is better in your own words than someone else’s, which is one reason why the CC Team is so valuable.
Who are your audiences?
First and foremost is employees. A great company has engaged and enabled employees. The easiest way to undermine that is to not communicate with them. Some of the mediums used are email, video conferences, meeting face-to-face, company intranet and social media.
What media do you use externally?
The types of media being used have changed. JD Power is an important voice to Duke Energy. When Duke Energy and Progress Energy were merging, JD Power said that Progress Energy was a quiet company and Duke Energy was a silent company. While being quiet is typical for the industry – you just do your job and keep the lights on – Duke Energy has worked on stepping out of that label. Now they use TV ads and create their own content on http://illumination.duke-energy.com/. Using stories to humanize the company and encouraging employees to be social media champions has been a culture change.
While the CC team plays a role in publicly visible communication, do they have a role in behind-the-scenes meetings?
Government affairs is mostly present in those silent meetings, but the CC team’s messages are present in all meetings. The talking points they produce are the “north star.”
How has the 24 hour news cycle changed the way you communicate?
Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. – Mike Tyson
The CC team monitors and reacts as appropriate all times of day. Instead of like in the past where you would gain one and lose one customer, now you can gain one and lose 1,000 customers based on one person’s bad experience that was shared on social media.
With the 24 hour news cycle, how do you prevent the story from getting ahead of you?
It depends on the issue. The first step is to know the facts. You might lose time, but you can’t lose trust.
What is Duke is doing about renewable energy?
Renewable prices are starting to come down, so solar capacity is more possible. In the middle part of the state, the most popular energy usage time is January during the morning hours. Unfortunately, the sun isn’t shining during that time. Solar is intermittent and works for 20-25% of the time. The gamechanger for solar will be affordable energy storage. Duke Energy’s R&D investment is in battery storage. Using solar energy would be a win-win situation. Our carbon footprint goes down and consumers bills are reduced.
What’s the current plan for nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy plants are difficult to build in Florida because natural gas prices are very low and license ability is hard to get. Capital costs of the projects won’t pay off until after 20 years, so the idea is a hard sell for consumers. Unfortunately, no one wants to pay for something that will benefit their children or grandchildren.
What keeps you [Alex Glenn] up at night?
Employee safety – making sure everyone goes home in the same condition they came to work in
Cyber security – It’s a question of if – not when. Duke Energy has 120 million phishing attempts a month. Security plans are in place, with people working 24/7 to work against them.
What are some tips for gaining the CEO’s trust?
Have a very deep, thorough understanding of the business. Otherwise, how can you advise?
Provide solutions. Don’t just identify the problem, come up with a solution. Explain your reasoning.
Tell the truth, even when the person doesn’t want to hear it. If you can’t feel like you can do that, consider if your job is a good fit.
Think strategically. Help the business plan specifically and measure it.
What does social media look like for employees?
Employees receive a half day of training, including how to do it and what to stay away from. Only a handful of employees, all from the CC team, have an official twitter handle for the company. Employee social media comments are monitored. Using the company created content, the CC team has made sharing easy and user friendly so employees can become involved in being social media champions.
Have you [Alex Glenn] had media training and what did it entail?
An outside consultant was used to come in for a couple of days of training. Alex commented that more training would be good and staff lower in the chain of command should be getting it too.
Alex Glenn is president of Duke Energy’s utility operations in Florida, serving approximately 1.7 million electric retail customers in central Florida, including metropolitan St. Petersburg, Clearwater and the Greater Orlando Area. He is responsible for advancing the company’s rate and regulatory initiatives, and managing state and local regulatory and governmental relations, economic development and community affairs. Alex has been with Duke Energy (and predecessor companies Progress Energy and Florida Power Corp.) since 1996. Before joining Florida Power Corp., Alex practiced energy law at the international law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Washington, D.C.