Spotlight on Business Development and Communications

Michigan electric cooperative communicators are incorporating digital media to keep member-owners informed on co-op news. Digital media use includes videos, social media channels, infographics and photos. Cloverland’s Business Development and Communications (BDC) team embraces these new media opportunities while continuing the bimonthly Cloverland Connections magazine for members who prefer print content.

The BDC team is responsible for all internal and external communications of the cooperative, including media relations and community outreach. The department is managed by Cloverland’s Director of Business Development and Communications, Allie Brawley and consists of Cloverland’s Communications Specialist, Abby Bell and Key Accounts Specialist, Jake Brown.

What is the primary goal for the BDC department?

Brawley: Our job is to keep our 122 employees across eight locations and 34,000 members across five counties well informed with timely and effective co-op communications. We continually monitor digital media trends and member feedback to enhance our communication methods.

How is the BDC department using digital media?

Bell: Cloverland’s growing use of digital media includes infographics, photos and video content and encourages members to stay connected with the co-op online. The engagement rate on our social media channels provides encouraging feedback that members respond to our content. We aim to create educational content for members in the digital space.

FAA certified drone pilot, Abby Bell, uses a drone to execute her idea for photographing our hydro crew cheering on Sault Ste. Marie Olympian, Abby Roque, as part of the “Roque the Soo” support.

Describe the roles within the Business Development and Communications Department:

Brawley:  Each of our roles has a broad range of tasks. Among Abby’s many responsibilities, she manages all social media channels, generates graphic designs for ads/articles/social media, writes press releases and serves as assistant editor of Connections. Over the past year, she digitized our internal communications and added Instagram and YouTube to our platform. In addition to managing our industrial and commercial members, Jake coordinates our energy optimization program and provides research and analysis on business development projects. His work is key in supporting new initiatives for the co-op, such as the drone program. My role includes overseeing all proactive and reactive aspects to co-op communications, supporting business development efforts and managing our non-profit foundation, Cloverland Cares.

How does Cloverland use social media?

Bell: We are passionate about using social media to connect with our members. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube allow us to engage with members where they are online. Our social media channels provide a mixture of content including electrical safety tips, co-op news, Cloverland Connections stories, energy efficiency resources and field photos with our crews. Our goal with social media is to provide engaging, informative content for our members.

What does the BDC team do to communicate in a power outage situation?

Brown: We have a rotating weekly on-call schedule. When a power outage affects 200 or more members, we report the outage location and number of members affected on Facebook and on the outage center on During major outages, we stay in contact with Cloverland’s Control Center and Director of Operations to gather field information and relay it to members in our updates. In an extended outage situation, we use a divide and conquer approach to gather photos of line crews, generate media updates and respond to media inquiries while providing scheduled updates to members so they can plan accordingly.

What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Brawley: Working with such a dynamic team on so many creative projects is very fulfilling. Abby recently completed her Masters in New Media Journalism which adds an important skill set to our team. Jake’s engineering and business background is extremely valuable for managing key accounts and supporting new co-op endeavors. They both earned FAA drone certifications, which provides another digital avenue for sharing co-op stories through aerial video and photography. Together, we generate many ideas in our weekly brainstorm sessions to apply strategic thinking and creativity to our communication plans.

Brown: It’s always nice when members comment on our Facebook posts or send messages expressing “thanks” for providing information in outage situations. I enjoy knowing our team was able to provide information to members who may be without power so they can plan appropriately, even though it is an unfortunate situation. I also enjoy contributing to co-op business development efforts on broadband and electric vehicles.

Bell: Every day brings new communications opportunities. My favorite opportunity is visiting field locations to capture photos and videos. Cloverland members interact with field photos and always leave encouraging comments for our crews. We read every social media comment so it’s always encouraging to see the kindness and appreciation for our crews.