Corporate Communications – Virtual (Sep 10-11)

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, stakeholder engagement, crisis communication and communicating strategic plans.

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General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Dave Santen, Senior Writer, Corporate Communications, NW Natural

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

  • Registration Options
  • Attendee: $199 USD

    Registration includes online access and all digital meeting 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 program and all programs through December 2020. Registrants can now receive a full refund should they need to cancel their registration up to the day before the program begins. This applies to both new and existing registrations for virtual programs.
  • 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 (503) 688-2794.


All session times are listed in Pacific time.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM

Virtual Registration + Help Desk

The meeting room will be open for participants to log-in early and get familiar with the various features of the virtual platform. The welcome will start promptly at 12:30 PM.

12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

Welcome + Introductions
Facilitator(s): Dave Santen, Senior Writer, Corporate Communications, NW Natural

Get to know your peers through our roundtable introductions. Come prepared to share a current challenge or recent success story from your organization.

1:15 PM - 2:30 PM

COVID-19 Internal Communications: What's Working + Lessons Learned
Speaker(s): Joseph Ramallo, Asst. General Manager, Communications, Media & Community Affairs, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Elaina Medina, Public Information Officer, NW Natural

Be part of the conversation as utility leaders discuss their organization's internal communication response to COVID-19. Joseph Ramallo, LADWP, will talk about strategies to communicate workplace changes, safety during repopulation, and employee appreciation. Elaina Medina, NW Natural, will share how communicators can maximize their seat at the (incident command) table to effectively support company leaders and the incident command team, and engage with your most important audience — your employees — during a pandemic. Come prepared to share your own examples while gaining valuable insights from others.

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM


2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

COVID-19 External Communications: What's Working + Lessons Learned
Speaker(s): Neil Neroutsos, Corporate Communications Manager, Chelan County PUD, Nicole Denton, Manager, Vehicles & Platforms, Salt River Project

For this session, we shift the focus to external communications. Neil Neroutsos will share how Chelan Public Utility District, based in Central Washington, quickly adapted its 2020 outreach strategies to support communitywide efforts around COVID-19. The PUD partnered with regional public and private sector organizations to reach specific audiences throughout the community with targeted messages. Learn how the utility and its partners developed a series of creative approaches to communicate health and safety issues. 

Nicole Denton will share how Salt River Project, based in Greater Phoenix, took a data-first approach to segment its customer base on a number of factors and communicate relevant, timely and personalized information. Learn how SRP worked quickly to get important information out to customers in mid-March and then adapted to a customized, customer-centric communications approach to assist customers based on their level of impact by the pandemic.  

Friday, September 11, 2020

8:45 AM - 9:00 AM

Welcome Back

The meeting room will open early as we welcome participants back to Day 2 of the program. The first session will start promptly at 9:00 AM.

9:00 AM - 10:15 AM

Diversity, Equity + Inclusion
Speaker(s): Jessica Bailis, Associate Solution Director, Customer Engagement Solutions, E Source

With a global pandemic and an elevated emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020 has shifted our societal views and how we engage and interact in this world. Utilities have an opportunity to support their customers, while also strengthening their brand and communications strategy. This session will cover the utility's role in social justice and diversity + inclusion, the actions that support mission and brand, and the importance of customer and employee satisfaction during this time.

10:15 AM - 10:30 AM


10:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Using Social Media + Digital Marketing to Engage Customers
Speaker(s): Katie Paullin, Senior Manager, Marketing and Brand, Portland General Electric, Andrea Bywater, Digital Marketing Advisor, Digital Communications, BC Hydro

Electronic communication continues to evolve at a rapid pace in response to customer feedback and emerging trends. Now more than ever is the time to build your business case on the value of e-communication to engage your customers in new and unique ways. Katie Paullin will share examples from Portland General Electric as we consider this question – what do customers want to hear, and how do they want to hear it? Andrea Bywater, BC Hydro, will share the results of an ad campaign that ran on various social media platforms to both a targeted audience and broad audience.

11:45 AM - 12:15 PM

Open Roundtable Discussion
Facilitator(s): Dave Santen, Senior Writer, Corporate Communications, NW Natural

Ask any remaining questions that were not yet discussed and benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience of the group.

12:15 PM - 12:30 PM

Wrap Up + Future Planning

Share your thoughts on the forum and help to generate topics for future agendas.

Meet The Speakers

Joseph Ramallo

Los Angeles Department of Water & Power

Asst. General Manager, Communications, Media & Community Affairs

Dave Santen

NW Natural

Senior Writer, Corporate Communications
Learn More

Dave Santen is a senior writer at NW Natural, a natural gas utility headquartered in Portland, Oregon. As a member of the corporate communications team, he tracks key issues facing the company and industry and provides support for initiatives such as the Low Carbon Pathway. Dave’s background includes public relations, copywriting and journalism in the fields of energy, infrastructure, higher education and sustainability. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Portland State University.
Fun fact: Santen is co-author with Tom Liptan of Sustainable Stormwater Management: A Landscape-Driven Approach to Planning and Design (Timber Press, 2017).

Neil Neroutsos

Chelan County PUD

Corporate Communications Manager

Jessica Bailis

E Source

Associate Solution Director, Customer Engagement Solutions

Katie Paullin

Portland General Electric

Senior Manager, Marketing and Brand

Elaina Medina

NW Natural

Public Information Officer

Nicole Denton

Salt River Project

Manager, Vehicles & Platforms

Andrea Bywater

BC Hydro

Digital Marketing Advisor, Digital Communications