Touchstone Energy: ‘Power of Co-op Membership’
by Kent Brick
|The dedication of co-op lineworkers across the nation and state is a prized value of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. At right, is Lance Diebold, lineworker for Capital Electric Cooperative, Bismarck.(Photo by Steve Crane)
As the Touchstone Energy® brand celebrates its 15th birthday, it continues to be shaped and adapted to the current world in which electric cooperatives serve their members. The newest campaign from Touchstone Energy – “The Power of Co-op Membership” – is the next phase in the ongoing effort to capture the attention and loyalty of newer generations of members.
Pete Erickson, member services manager at North Central Electric Cooperative, Bottineau, and Marshal Albright, vice president of member and energy services with Cass Country Electric Cooperative, Fargo, are grateful for the Touchstone Energy brand messaging and product mix
“Touchstone Energy communication gives us a way to convey that we’re part of something larger than just a mom-and-pop cooperative,” Erickson says. “That seems to resonate with people.”
The Touchstone Energy brand was founded in 1998 by distribution, generation and transmission, and trade association representatives whose common zeal was to bring electric cooperatives under one brand identification umbrella. This was the culmination of many years of discussing an effective nationwide identity and it emerged as the modern common identifier cooperatives needed to help reach younger, selective, technology-savvy consumer-members.
The Touchstone Energy label has its origin in the definition of “touchstone,” which means a measure of quality and value. Touchstone Energy was selected as the most effective name for communicating the unique characteristics that convey the special nature of our cooperatives.
Today, continuing the brand’s inception, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives serve members with the core values of accountability, integrity, innovation and commitment to community.
As of August 2013, there are 748 Touchstone Energy cooperatives nationwide. Touchstone Energy offers more than 60 modern tools and programs cooperatives can access to serve members.
This high level of cooperative support for the Touchstone Energy brand has been a solid foundation for development of this diverse, relevant set of products and services. Albright says Cass County Electric has made extensive use of Touchstone Energy materials through the years.
“I think these are valuable assets to all the co-ops. We don't have to spend time creating a lot of the material we use to show our members what we're all about,” Albright says.
Touchstone Energy’s new “Power of Co-op Membership” campaign features five core messages that spotlight how co-ops bring value in to the lives of their members and communities every day:
| View the 30-second Power of Membership videos
• Power of electricity – With today’s lifestyles more dependent than ever on electricity, cooperatives are embracing the innovations and new technologies necessary to sustain reliable, affordable electricity.
• Everyday value – While so many essentials – from housing to groceries, and more – have climbed significantly in price in recent years, the price of electricity has increased in much more moderate increments, making it a continuing great value for members.
• Membership – Consumer-members can deservedly feel confident that key decisions about their electricity supply are done with their interests put first and foremost.
• Working together (using energy wisely) – The cooperative places a high priority on programs and services for members which will assure electric power is consumed efficiently, and money spent for that power is minimized.
• Connections – The Co-op Connections Card is a service many Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are making available to members, enabling members to access discounted pricing from many local and national retailers.
“The Power of Co-op Membership” campaign will be accessible to Touchstone Energy cooperatives in the form of print and electronic media, through an updated Together We Save website, Touchstone Energy television broadcasts, and more. This new set of offerings takes its place on the Touchstone Energy menu of materials which already includes media material supporting energy efficiency, school curriculums and co-op management strategies, and more.
New National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Anne Emerson embraces the Touchstone Energy brand, and its newest “Co-op Membership” dimension.
“The most special thing about Touchstone Energy cooperatives is how they embrace the local presence of the cooperative and humanize the relationship between the electric cooperative and the people – the owners – in the homes and businesses the cooperative serves,” Emerson says.
Going forward, Erickson says he welcomes the quality, fine-tuned message material from Touchstone Energy. Successful member relations programs at North Central Electric require this modern messaging, coupled with a personal approach, he says.
“You have to do it one person at a time, not forgetting each and every day that you have to put your best foot forward and do what's best for your members. If you don't lose sight of that, then I think good things happen,” he says. Erickson says the cooperative is having success partnering with a variety of businesses and community groups, and he’s finding Facebook is getting a good reception among some members.
Cass County Electric is using multiple mediums to deliver messages to members. Albright says the cooperative uses these channels, often with Touchstone Energy materials, but he has concerns.
“For our ever-changing membership, I think one of the issues that we face is just information overload,” Albright says. “At this point in people's lives, from emails to texts to the multiple media channels they can view, it’s just so hard to connect with them in our new world. We see that more and more here every day, but that doesn't mean that we're not trying to connect with them.”
Albright is sure the Touchstone Energy brand is going to continue to be a pillar of the member relations program at Cass County Electric, and for co-ops nationwide.
“I think it's something that the co-ops across the country can be proud of – that we actually did come together and do something like this,” Albright says.