Local Initiatives

Ga. Co-op Uses Storyteller Approach

By Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: September 30th, 2013

Flint Energies’ Jennifer Morton is a “talker,” so when the electric cooperative selected her and 13 co-workers to attend a storytelling workshop, she jumped at the chance.

Professional storyteller Doug Lipman reviews the finer points of his craft at Flint Energies. (Photo By: Jennie Lacey)

Professional storyteller Doug Lipman reviews the finer points of his craft at Flint Energies. (Photo By: Jennie Lacey)

“I was happy,” said Morton, a member services rep at Flint Energies in Reynolds, Ga. “With this training, you can go anywhere in the community, whether it’s a civics club, festival or just speaking with our members and tell the Flint story.”

The band of storytellers is the co-op’s approach of raising its profile in the community and strengthening engagement with members, a major theme in NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson’s regional meeting addresses.

The workers—“diamonds in the rough” in the words of one co-op official—aren’t professional communicators, but will be able to publicize the co-op at a moment’s notice, in a relaxed, informal way.

“What we intend to create is an empowered employee who is passionate about standing up among a small group and telling their own Flint Energies story directly from the heart,” said Jimmy Autry, senior vice president of member and community relations.

But speaking from the heart takes practice. So the co-op hired a performer and author to train employees on effective storytelling techniques, such as inflection, tone, body language, visuals, and “hooks” to grab a listener’s attention.

The assignment, which students polished into an oral narrative, was “tell a story on the best experience you’ve had at Flint EMC,” said Morton, who works in the co-op’s Perry office.

“I learned it’s just as important to be a good listener as a good storyteller because people’s reactions affect how you tell it,” said Morton. Her “best experience” story is about volunteering for the co-op’s Linemen for Little Ones, a holiday gift-giving activity for needy children.

Among the inaugural class of 14 students was a meter technician, a computer programmer and an energy theft investigator.

“We had observed them at in-house trainings or as volunteers in the community, and they really wowed us,” said Marian Douglas, the co-op’s manager of public relations. “We thought they had potential to do more. This is a way to train them and take it to the next level.”

Eventually, the storytellers will appear at low-key venues, such as neighborhood watch groups, churches and PTA meetings.

“This is not about preparing a PowerPoint presentation or memorizing a script and taking it out to the local Rotary Club,” said Autry. “Instead, we’ve begun with our first set of motivated employees who have their own Flint Energies stories to tell.”

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