Corporate Communications – Virtual (Feb 23-24)

Internal and external communication professionals in the utility industry face a variety of challenges in supporting their organizations’ strategic plans, particularly as the utility workforce undergoes significant transformation, communication channels multiply, and utilities face increasing competition. This semiannual forum provides a unique, collaborative space for leaders in corporate communications to discuss these challenges and communications best practices. Recent topics of discussion include executive communications strategy, communicating with employees in the field, crisis communication, branding for employee recruitment and onboarding, environmental stewardship communications, and resource mix communication strategies.

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General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Mark Hanson, Senior Public Relations Representative, MDU Utilities Group

    • Program Location
    • Virtual Event
    • No travel required. All agenda times are in Pacific time. Instructions to access the virtual event will be provided to the attendee before the program.
    • Who Should Attend
    • Energy company corporate communications senior leadership, including directors and managers.

  • Registration Options
  • Member: $199 USD

    Registration includes virtual access to all agenda items and digital program materials.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • To best serve WEI members and program participants during the COVID-19 pandemic, WEI will be waiving its standard cancellation policy for this virtual program. Registrants can receive a full refund should they need to cancel their registration up to the day before the program begins.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public. Recording is not permitted for any portion of the event.
  • For more information contact Amy Nye, Program Manager at (971) 303-2119.


All session times are listed in Pacific time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM

Virtual Help Desk + Technology Check

The room will open early with optional time for participants to get familiar with the virtual platform, test their audio and webcam, or ask questions about the agenda before we begin.

12:30 PM - 12:45 PM

Welcome + Opening Remarks
Speaker(s): Mark Hanson, Senior Public Relations Representative, MDU Utilities Group

WEI and the Program Chair will welcome the group and share an overview of MDU Utilities Group.

12:45 PM - 1:45 PM

Breakout Session: Attendee Introductions

Get to know your peers through roundtable introductions. Attendees will be placed in small group breakout rooms to share their current challenges and success stories. Come prepared to engage and discuss the following prompts:
• What is the biggest challenge your team/department is facing right now?
• Share a recent success story or breakthrough.
• What are you hoping to gain from this meeting?
• Have some fun and share an interesting fact or story about yourself!

1:45 PM - 2:00 PM


2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Telling the Story: Grid Reliability + Resilience
Speaker(s): Melissa Wood, President, Advanta Consulting, Alex Abplanalp, Internal Communications Officer, Tacoma Power

Customers expect and receive highly reliable electricity. But keeping the lights on is only part of the equation for earning customers’ trust. Utilities that share their reliability and resilience story in a way that resonates with customers and engage and inspire employees through communications build trusting relationships even through these unprecedented times. This session will address how customers’ and employees’ expectations and behaviors have fundamentally changed and what this means for the evolution of utility communications.

3:00 PM - 3:15 PM


3:15 PM - 4:15 PM

The Impact of Extreme Weather on Customer Communication + Usage
Speaker(s): Melissa Havel, Sr. Director Corporate Communications, Portland General Electric, Carrie Mantle, Community Relations Officer, Tacoma Power

This session will cover the unprecedented weather events of 2021 in the Pacific Northwest. Hear lessons learned from Portland General Electric and Tacoma Power on internal and external communications, customer usage, and demand response.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM

Coffee Break

Bring your morning beverage and log on early for optional time to network and socialize with other participants.

8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

The Shifting Role of Customer Communications During COVID
Speaker(s): Cameron Daline, Customer Experience Manager, Clark Public Utilities

Spring of 2020 introduced a kaleidoscope of rapid change around the world and within the utility industry. Change in customer situations, change in customer needs and expectations, and change in customer communications. Cameron Daline from Clark Public Utilities will share one public utility’s communications approach, strategy, and methods for supporting customers through the pandemic.

9:30 AM - 9:45 AM


9:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Breakout Session: Industry Topics
Facilitator(s): Cara Chatfield, Manager, Corporate Communications, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Erica Shiflet, External Communications Leader, Idaho Power Company, Sarah Nystrom, Internal Communications Specialist, Tacoma Power, Mark Hanson, Senior Public Relations Representative, MDU Utilities Group, Alex Abplanalp, Internal Communications Officer, Tacoma Power

This time is designated for group discussion on a particular topic of interest. Each breakout session will be facilitated by a member of Program Development Team and participants will have the opportunity to attend (2) breakout rooms. Topics include:

  • Beyond Email: Communication Tools for Remote Staff + Field Workers
  • Employee Communication + Re-engagement
  • Hybrid Work Environments: Advantages + Disadvantages
  • Innovation + Creativity 
  • Recruitment + Retention

11:00 AM - 11:45 AM

Open Roundtable Discussion
Facilitator(s): Mark Hanson, Senior Public Relations Representative, MDU Utilities Group

Report out your insights from the breakout sessions and spend the remaining time expanding on previous discussions or addressing new topics that were not included on the agenda.

11:45 AM - 12:00 PM

Wrap Up + Future Planning

Share your thoughts on future formats and agenda topics as we set our sights on the Fall 2022 forum.

Meet The Speakers

Mark Hanson

MDU Utilities Group

Senior Public Relations Representative

Melissa Wood

Advanta Consulting


Alexandra Abplanalp

Tacoma Power

Internal Communications Officer

Melissa Havel

Portland General Electric

Sr. Director Corporate Communications

Carrie Mantle

Tacoma Power

Community Relations Officer

Cameron Daline

Clark Public Utilities

Customer Experience Manager
Learn More

As Customer Experience Manager for Clark Public Utilities, Cameron manages utility customer research and partners with teams throughout the utility to ensure customer voice and feedback is central to decision making and communications related to overall customer journey. As part of the utility Communications team, Cameron also leads customer communications and outreach. Prior to the utility industry, Cameron spent a decade in the automotive industry working in product line management and marketing.

Cara Chatfield

Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Manager, Corporate Communications

Sarah Nystrom

Tacoma Power

Internal Communications Specialist

Erica Shiflet

Idaho Power Company

External Communications Leader