Consumers prefer video content. In the age of social media and smartphones — even gas pumps are now equipped with streaming screens — video is the most effective way to get your message in front of customers.

Video makes your message both memorable and shareable, while being adaptable across all digital channels. By producing entertaining, informative video content, your utility can increase customer engagement, grow program participation and educate residential and business customers about important energy topics.

But video is also difficult to produce, and it can be expensive. The popularity of video content comes with high customer expectations: They will quickly tune out a poorly made or uninteresting video. To succeed, it’s critical for marketers to invest the time and resources needed to produce content that is appealing and effective.

If your energy utility wants to boost your customer engagement strategy with video content, follow these best practices to create enjoyable, entertaining videos that also educate and inform.

Chart listing the best practices for video content marketing

Top 10 Video Best Practices

  1. Maintain high-quality production values
  2. Entertain as you inform
  3. Keep the video short and on-point
  4. Consider a video series
  5. Create videos with your customers in mind
  6. Use storytelling to deliver the message
  7. Make sure your videos work without sound
  8. Pay attention to the first 3 seconds
  9. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA)
  10. Distribute videos across multiple channels

1. Maintain high-quality production values

Video production is more accessible than ever. Thanks to smartphones, most of us practically have an entire movie studio in our pockets. However, the DIY aesthetic is probably not consistent with your energy utility’s brand. You want your messages to be professional and authoritative, not like a homemade social reel.

Follow these video best practices to ensure your production values reflect that professionalism:

  • Subjects should be well-lit and properly exposed, including key lighting from the front and backlighting. Overhead office lights are typically not sufficient.
  • Capture video in horizontal, widescreen mode. Vertical videos look fine on social media but don’t translate well to other platforms.
  • Use a tripod and avoid unnecessary camera movement like zooms and pans. Shaky, unstable camera work is a surefire way to make your video look amateurish.
  • Hire professional talent to appear on-screen and record voiceovers. Actors who are comfortable, confident and clear on camera make your videos more enjoyable to watch and add authority to your message.
  • Use high-quality graphics and legible type to explain or label items in your video. Utilize bright, contrasting colors so that graphics are clear for smartphone viewers and the vision impaired.
  • Spoken audio and voiceovers should be loud and clear. Professionally recorded music can add interest, especially for an introduction, but make sure it’s not distracting.

2. Entertain as you inform

How do you make a video engaging? By incorporating entertainment.

Video content is an extremely effective way to educate customers about energy topics. Moving images and graphics can make complicated concepts easy to understand. But your videos won’t hold viewers’ attention if they come across as dry, boring or too technical.

To make a positive impression and truly build customer engagement, video content needs to be entertaining as well as informative.

Follow these video best practices to ensure that your message is entertaining:

  • The tone should be upbeat and energetic. For example, approach energy efficiency as a positive change, not as something customers are doing wrong and need to fix.
  • Keep it simple. Most residential customers are not energy experts, and they don’t need to be. Ask someone from outside your utility to review scripts to make sure they’re understandable and don’t overuse industry jargon.
  • Use animation and on-screen graphics to bring topics to life. Don’t explain something if you can show it instead; using animation to show inside equipment is even better.
  • Content for a business audience can be more advanced, but it should still be enjoyable to watch. Save the technical specs for an infographic or detailed article.

Check out this animated video about renewable energy. A typically complex topic is simplified through metaphors, graphics and fun characters.

3. Keep the video short and on-point

It probably goes without saying that today’s consumers don’t have a lot of free time on their hands. Video content is popular not just because it’s easy to consume — it’s also a fast way for customers to get lots of information while they’re on the go. Make sure your videos don’t bore customers or tempt them to reach for the “skip” button.

Keep your content brief by following these video best practices:

  • Videos should be as short as possible while still being informative and entertaining. You don’t want the video to feel rushed, but it should be concise. In other words, stick to the point and eliminate the fluff.
  • With few exceptions, website videos should be no longer than 90 seconds to 2 minutes. If you can’t fit your topic into that time, consider narrowing the focus or splitting it into a multiple-video series. 
  • Social media videos should be 30 to 60 seconds in length, with graphics optimized to display on smartphone screens.

4. Consider a video series to promote ongoing engagement

From movie trilogies to streaming TV series, viewers can’t resist watching the new adventures of characters they already know and love. Presenting video content as part of an ongoing series is an effective way for energy utilities to increase customer engagement. Customers who are familiar with a series are much more likely to watch the latest videos — and learn about new energy topics.

Follow these tips to build long-term engagement with your video series:

  • A video series creates familiarity and reinforces consistent messaging by returning to the same style and format over time.
  • Using the same on-screen talent and series title helps customers connect the overall theme (e.g., energy efficiency) to specific topics (LED lightbulbs and smart thermostats).
  • Questline Digital performance metrics show that content presented in a series increases subsequent viewings, with up to 42% of customers watching multiple videos in a series.

Check out this example from National Grid. The utility worked with Questline Digital to create six testimonial videos that promote results from their EV Make Ready Program, as well as an animated video explaining how the program works. Rather than one, extremely long video, they built a series that more effectively engages customers with digestible, more specific episodes.

Thumbnail images of series for video content best practices

5. Create videos with your customers in mind

When planning topics for your next video, focus on how you can provide value to customers. What interests do customers have? What questions do they ask? Use this information to develop a content strategy that gives customers what they need and provides information that will help them in their daily lives.

  • Do your customers want to learn something new? An educational, animated explainer video can help simplify complex topics.
  • Do your customers need proof points that a program or product is worthwhile? Showcase real-life success stories and commentary from customers with case studies and testimonial videos.
  • Do your customers need help navigating a new service or understanding a program? Give them a step-by-step overview with a tutorial video.

6. Use storytelling to deliver the message

Storytelling helps create an authentic voice that resonates with customers. Focus on narrative-based content that viewers can relate to. Tell a story about a brand, company or service and guide viewers to through their pain points, develop an emotional spark, and then see a satisfying solution to the problem.

When it comes to storytelling, there are a few main points to consider before video development begins.

  • Plot: What story do you want to tell? What is the overarching arc of the story? Does it include enough drama to hold attention?
  • People: Who are the characters in the story and how do they relate to viewers?
  • Place: What is the main location of the story and how does that connect back to customers?
  • Audience: What customers are you targeting with this video — residential or business, specific industries, residential customers with specific interests?
  • Purpose: What point are you trying to make in the story and what do you want viewers to do after?

7. Make sure your videos work without sound

If you plan on sharing your videos on social media platforms, it’s important to ensure your videos convey your message while muted. We all know how embarrassing it can be to have the sound from a video clip on your phone interrupt those around you. That’s why most users opt to default to mute when auto-playing content.

If your video isn’t understandable without sound, you’ll miss out on a large portion of potential viewers. Follow these video best practices:

  • Always add closed-captioning text files. Captioning ensures that your video is accessible to those with hearing impairments as well as mobile viewers who mute their phones.
  • Don’t rely on music. Music is a fantastic feature to add to your marketing videos. However, if the meaning of your clip revolves around the music, those watching on mute won’t understand the message.

8. Pay attention to the first three seconds

You have only three seconds to hook and interest your viewer. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll scroll past or click “skip,” meaning the rest of your video went to waste.

  • Add a strong visual or “opening shot” at the very beginning of your video to immediately capture attention and stop scrolling.
  • Don’t make your logo the first shot or video thumbnail image — this doesn’t tell viewers what the video is about or grab their interest.
  • Include a clear headline on your video thumbnail explaining what value your video is going to provide.
  • Use people and animals to your advantage to trigger an emotional response. Nothing captures people’s attention more than seeing other people or animals on the screen.

Check out this video made by Questline Digital that includes a title image that lets you know exactly what the clip is about.

9. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA)

As mentioned above, defining the purpose of your video is vital — what do you want customers to do after they watch? Is it to sign up for a service, purchase a new smart technology device or send in a rebate request? Whatever it is, make sure you include a clear call-to-action.

Use your CTAs to:

  • Drive visits to specific landing pages
  • Send customers to their My Account preference center
  • Encourage downloads of your utility’s app
  • Ask viewers to share their input

Also, make sure it’s easy for customers to take action; for example, a single click should take them to the correct landing page or a simple signup form.

10. Distribute videos across multiple channels

“Build it and they will come” doesn’t work for most things, including videos. Content cannot simply be created and left alone. To increase views and engagement with your videos, they need to be shared widely across all channels and platforms.

The obvious channels to add videos include:

  • Your utility’s website
  • YouTube or Vimeo pages
  • Social media platforms

Some not-so-obvious channels to leverage video content include:

  • Your utility marketing emails
  • As QR codes on printed materials
  • Within customers’ My Account centers
  • On your utility marketplace site

Wherever your utility shares video content, remember the original purpose: What is your utility trying to accomplish with each video? Who is your utility trying to reach?

Use Video Best Practices to Boost Views and Engagement

Videos are an effective way to engage with your customers in a format that they prefer. Make sure your video content is high-quality, entertaining, informative and concise. Your energy utility will see overall increased engagement and satisfaction, and your customers will be coming back for more.

Learn how Questline Digital’s content strategy and video production services will put these best practices to work for your energy utility.

Animation has the power to break through marketing clutter. No matter the company or industry, consumers want entertaining, educational and aspirational content. In a sea of sensory overload, animated explainer videos enable your energy utility to stand out in a memorable, compelling way.

Animation helps brands to develop a unique and identifiable look that instantly separates them from competitors. Graphic imagery is a powerful tool. Graphic imagery that moves? That’s influential.

Benefits of Animated Explainer Videos

  • Eye-catching and attention-grabbing
  • More flexibility
  • High performance
  • Aids understanding of complex topics
  • Memorable

Video content is now an essential element of any marketing plan. Animation provides the flexibility to make branded video content faster and often for less money than live action alternatives.

While live action video depends largely on specific locations, appropriate talent and other external variables, the possibilities are endless with animation. You control every aspect of the environment and characters — your story can take place in the middle of the desert or on the surface of the moon.

For brands on a budget, that means they can do much more for less.

“The power of animation lies in the ability to translate emotions and ideas into a visual experience for viewers,” said Mary Harrison, Questline Digital Animator. “You don’t have to limit your imagination — animation pushes the boundaries beyond what is possible in real life.”

According to Questline Digital Benchmarks data, video and other multimedia content outperforms articles in residential customer communications. We see some of the highest engagement for animated explainer videos that break down difficult energy topics.

Animation provides opportunities for energy utilities to educate their customers on complex topics. Technical information can be effectively explained through simple animated videos, compared to a lengthy article or complicated lived-action explainer video.

“Animation is like having X-ray vision,” explained Matt Irving, Questline Digital Creative Director for Video. “You can see exactly how technology works inside the equipment — something that wouldn’t be possible with live footage.”

3 Ways Utilities Can Use Animated Explainer Videos

When people think of animation, they often think of cartoons from classic Disney movies, Pixar films or TV shows like The Simpsons. However, animation can also be realistic and lifelike — it all depends on what style works best to tell your story.

The subject matter can be serious, educational, technical or even heartfelt. Questline Digital has utilized animation in promotional campaigns ranging from communicating the safety and security of outdoor lighting to PSAs explaining rate cases. There are no limits to the stories that can be told with animation.

Animated explainer videos have the power to capture attention, engage audiences and make your message memorable — which, let’s face it, is not always easy to do.

Here are a few examples of how you can use animated explainer videos in your energy utility’s marketing to increase customer engagement.

Explain new billing programs

Animated video is a great way to educate your customers on the main features of their energy bill or a new billing program. Whether your utility is debuting a new bill redesign or simply wants to educate customers on how to read their bill, animated video makes an impact.

The visual nature of video works best for this type of communication. Instead of describing all the key features in an article or bill insert, your customers can clearly see them in the clip. Plus, you can highlight important changes with animation.

For one major utility, Questline Digital created an animated explainer video highlighting their new and improved bill, which featured a fresh look and easier-to-find information. This educational video experienced strong customer engagement with a 42.7% open rate and more than 14,000 total clicks from a promotional email campaign. The video also experienced nearly 8,000 views on the energy utility’s YouTube channel.

Simplify technical content

One of the most valuable capabilities of animation is simplifying intricate topics. You can provide an unobstructed look into equipment or drastically abridge the complexity of a concept.

For example, in the following video, variable frequency drives (VFD) are explained in just a few seconds with the use of animation. Showcasing how pipe valves and VFD technology differ would be time consuming without the use of graphics.

Educate customers about energy use

From smart home devices to electric vehicles, customers have more energy technology at their fingertips than ever before — and more questions about how best to control their energy use. Animated explainer videos can bring these topics to life, helping customers understand new energy technologies in a fun and entertaining format.

Questline Digital created the explainer video series “The Evolving World of Energy” for the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative. With the friendly character Professor Energy as a guide, the videos help unravel complicated energy topics and demonstrate the benefits to customers.

Step Up Your Storytelling

Explore the limitless possibilities of animation. Questline Digital can help you create customized videos to maximize engagement with your energy utility customers. We handle every facet of the process from pre-production and scriptwriting to art direction and editing.

Discover how Questline Digital can help step up your storytelling with animated explainer videos.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma’s Jessica Carthen helps customers understand and take advantage of energy efficiency programs — a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.

“As a marketer, you don’t always have the opportunity to promote something that is truly a service for good,” Carthen says. “There is something really fulfilling about being able to promote energy efficiency. Not only are we helping the community, but we’re also putting money back in the pockets of our customers.”

Headshot of Jessica Carthen for Energy Spotlight interview

As Consumer Programs Marketing Senior Coordinator, Carthen creates marketing campaigns and educational content to help customers benefit from PSO’s energy efficiency programs and services. Since energy efficiency is not a one-size-fits-all message, she utilizes customer data from various sources, such as smart meter usage data, to create personalized campaigns.

“I definitely see customers wanting more personalization,” Carthen says. “If you’re blasting marketing messages that don’t apply to them, they are going to lose interest very quickly. In my role, I’ll say, ‘Show me what data we have, and let’s see if we can refine our approach so we’re giving customers information that’s most relevant to them.’”

Last year, Carthen led an innovative campaign to help customers not only understand energy efficiency, but also engage with it in a new way. The goal of the Save the Watts campaign was to make the often-complicated topic of energy efficiency easy to understand. The campaign features cute characters that give a physical representation to the term “watts” to capture attention and increase engagement.

“When we developed the Save the Watts campaign, we started with customer research,” Carthen explains. “Customers told us, ‘I understand that my home could be using energy more efficiently, but I don’t really think about it.’ When we got that research back, we worked with an agency to help us make energy efficiency top of mind for our customers.”

The Save the Watts campaign started with video as the primary tactic and expanded to social media, broadcast television and even radio ads. Now, Carthen says people will stop by their booth at various community events and mention how much they love the campaign. In addition to being well-received by customers, the Save the Watts campaign won a 2021 E Source Utility Ad Award, an industry honor that recognizes creative excellence.

“A good portion of our demographic is families, so if you can catch their attention you’ve won half the battle,” Carthen says. “The brand recognition from the Save the Watts campaign has really helped us increase consumer awareness of energy efficiency.”

Even with widespread marketing campaigns, Carthen acknowledges it can still be a challenge to reach some customers. That’s why Carthen is working to ensure energy efficiency is available to all customers in PSO’s service territory, especially those with limited income. She regularly looks at program participation data to see where they should be focusing their marketing efforts to best reach customers in need.

“Maybe we served a community really well in the past, but now we need to focus our efforts in a different community or geographical area,” Carthen says. “Our mission is to ensure we are serving all customers that can be served. We are always looking for ways to improve parity among our programs.”

When Carthen isn’t marketing EE programs and services, you’ll find her enjoying the great outdoors with her 6-year-old son or working on home projects with her husband, who is a project manager for AEP, the parent company of PSO.

Questline Digital connected with Carthen to learn more about what inspired her to work in utility marketing, how best to promote energy efficiency and some of her favorite campaigns.

How did you get started in the energy utility industry?

I was working in an advertising agency and was looking for a position that would let me leverage my brand strategy experience in a more meaningful way. I have family in the utility industry so when the opportunity in the energy efficiency group at Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) came available, I knew I wanted to apply. Luckily, they were looking for someone with agency experience to lead their energy efficiency marketing efforts, and it was a great fit for both of us.

What has changed the most about working in the utility industry over the course of your career?

My career in the utility industry is still fairly new, especially when you consider that many people at my company have worked here for 30-plus years. In the three-and-a-half years I’ve been with PSO, the emphasis on data integration and analysis has really shaped how we do business and respond to the needs of our customers as the industry continues to evolve.

What excites you the most about the energy utility space? 

The impact our work has on our communities. We literally power people’s lives, which is something I don’t take lightly. The ability to market something like energy efficiency is exciting because it truly helps customers. As a marketer, it’s really fulfilling to promote something that serves a greater purpose. 

What campaign or initiative are you most proud of? 

We’ve launched some really creative and effective marketing campaigns, including the Save the Watts campaign that was awarded first place at the E Source Utility Ad Awards. However, our smaller day-to-day initiatives are some of my favorites.

When I started, I went on a ride-along with one of our small business lighting consultants and literally watched them go door-to-door and offer free lighting audits to local businesses. Not long after that, we implemented a marketing campaign that delivers customer leads directly to the lighting consultants. Now they have more time to spend doing actual lighting upgrade projects. The lighting consultants appreciate the campaign, and it helps our company meet its energy-saving goals.

What’s a marketing campaign you wish you’d thought of (inside or outside the energy industry)?

There are so many campaigns I wish I had thought of, but the most recent one is Progressive’s “Becoming Your Parents” campaign. It’s fun, relatable and a great fit for their target audience. I always appreciate when a brand doesn’t take themselves too seriously because, at the end of the day, marketing is about building connections with people.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t working in the utility industry, I would be…

I would be doing marketing in some shape or form because it’s what I love to do. Regardless of where I was working, I know I would be having fun and hopefully making an impact.

How do you anticipate the world of energy evolving in the coming years?

In my role, I anticipate that our energy efficiency programs and offerings will continue to evolve as there are advances in technology. And with that, customer education will continue to be an important part of my job. As energy efficiency programs adapt, content creation will become even more important — more videos, blogs, etc. to help customers understand new technologies and the impact they have on their homes and businesses.

What advice would you give to those entering the utility space?

First, take the time to understand the industry and how you can make an impact in your role. And second, don’t be afraid to speak up and cause healthy disruption. Sometimes, we have to question things for us all to get better.

Participation in Questline Digital’s Energy Spotlight series does not indicate an endorsement from utility partners.

Energy utility customers no longer want or hope for engaging digital experiences — they expect them. These experiences offer opportunities for people to learn and understand things they might not otherwise encounter.

For example, during the height of the pandemic, the Google Arts & Culture team partnered with over 2,500 museums and galleries to offer free virtual tours and online exhibits worldwide. Not only did this allow people to travel without leaving their homes, it also created a unique sense of connection as people experienced these virtual visits together.

When it comes to your customers, they want nothing short of an engaging digital experience from their energy utility. The past two years have shown that webinars are highly successful at providing these experiences. In fact, 2020 saw a total increase of 160% in digital experiences, according to the 2021 Digital Experience Benchmarks Report.

Webinars are a unique way to connect with utility customers and employees, sharing educational resources or training tools with each group. However, what does an engaging digital experience look like?

According to Mark Bornstein, Vice President of Marketing and aptly named “Chief Webinerd” for On24, it’s a branded experience that includes multimedia, multitouch content as well as human interaction.

“Our audiences no longer want passive experiences,” says Bornstein. “They’re looking for multimedia experiences — this idea of really mixing and matching the forms of media and the different types of content in a different experience. We need to deliver multitouch content experiences where people get lots of content in every experience. And every experience needs to feel like an approachable human experience.”

Read on to learn more expert advice for creating an effective, interactive webinar to engage with your utility’s customers or employees as you educate them. Then, download Questline Digital’s checklist and put these tips to good use during your next webinar.

Top 10 Webinar Tips and Tricks

These are the top 10 webinar tips and tricks to produce successful and engaging virtual events.

  1. Maintain a consistent schedule
  2. Build a multichannel promotion strategy
  3. Ensure you have an engaging host
  4. Limit the number of presenters
  5. Practice, practice, practice
  6. Know your audience
  7. Make the presentation engaging
  8. Plan for the unexpected
  9. Follow up with registrants
  10. Make the webinar available on-demand
Infographic listing top 10 webinar tips and tricks

Webinar Tip 1: Maintain a Consistent Schedule

The best webinar series has built-in loyalty by being consistent with topics and presentation days. Customers know what to expect and when to expect the webinars because the schedule has been communicated from the start.

Questline Digital’s client, Arizona Public Service (APS), is well-known for this approach. “They host webinars regularly — about two webinars a month for the past three years,” says Josh Platt, Questline Digital Account Director. “Some may see this as overkill, but it’s simply consistent branding, allowing the utility to have a pre-determined editorial calendar and loyal attendees.”

Webinar Tip 2: Build a Multichannel Promotion Strategy

It’s imperative to go where your customers are. This means promoting webinars in emails, on social media and your utility’s website. The more you promote your webinar, the more registrants you’re bound to get. Bornstein reminds us, “Everywhere your audience goes to interact with your brand, they should be met with, not a piece of content, but an experience.”

Platt again points to the success of APS, noting, “They do a great job promoting their webinars online and offline. They publish articles or ads in a trade journal once a quarter that lists their upcoming webinars. They also cross-promote on social media to reach people who may not be on their email list.

“If you’re promoting well, you’re doing a number of things,” Platt adds. “The benefits of online and offline promotions extend to list building and outreach to customers you may not currently have in your network.”

Questline Digital’s webinar tips and tricks recommends starting promotions for webinars six to eight weeks in advance. When sending emails, consider sending three in advance and two after the event:

  • First email one month before webinar
  • Second email two weeks before webinar
  • Third email the week of the webinar
  • “Thank you” email after the webinar to those who registered and attended
  • “Sorry we missed you” email to those who did not attend with a link to a recording of the webinar

“With APS, we plan an entire year’s worth of webinars by October and have them promoted offline in a magazine the first week of November,” Platt says. “If you’re wanting to work off of best practices, you’re promoting a ways out.”

Infographic listing advice for advanced promotion webinar tricks and tips

Webinar Tip 3: Ensure You Have an Engaging Host

Even if the content and presenters are top-of-the-line for your webinar, it’s still key to have an emcee or host who can moderate questions and move along the conversation.

Your host can hold different responsibilities depending on the webinar. They can be virtually invisible during the presentation, only appearing when needed, or they can be face or voice for your webinar or series. No matter which way your utility chooses to go, ensure you have a host who is engaging and lively — nothing is worse than having a monotone voice trying to carry the conversation.

In addition, your emcee should be able to quickly navigate the conversation, moving it from one speaker to another or directing questions to specific presenters to keep the webinar from stumbling into an awkward lull. Managing the time and pace of the webinar is also imperative; the host should be able to jump in and remind presenters of the time remaining and keep things moving.

Webinar Tip 4: Limit the Number of Presenters

It’s best to include multiple subject matter experts in your webinar to provide different perspectives and unique answers to customer questions. However, having too many presenters at once can often do more harm than good, making the presentation overwhelming and confusing for attendees.

Kelly Metz, Digital Campaign Production Specialist with Questline Digital, suggests no more than four presenters during a webinar, saying “Too many cooks will spoil the soup.”

Metz also advises that when including multiple presenters, be prepared in advance by deciding:

  • Who will move the presentation slides
  • How and when to transition between speakers
  • Who will moderate Q&A
  • What location to present from so you have a reliable internet connection

“If possible, use the same hardware, software and location in both practice sessions and the live webinar,” Metz adds. “If it was successful in the dry run, chances are that it will work for the live run.”

Bornstein also shares the importance of utilizing video during your webinars and showing the presenters’ faces. “Video is table stakes at this point,” he says. “If you’re not showing your face, you’re not doing digital marketing.”

Quotation about webinar tips and tricks reading Video is table stakes at this point If youre not showing your face youre not doing digital marketing

Webinar Tip 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

Everyone knows the phrase, “practice makes perfect” and yet it continues to ring true. “You can’t go into a webinar thinking it’s any other meeting, especially if you’re on camera,” Platt says. “You need to practice, prepare and plan.”

Questline Digital suggests holding a dry-run event one or two weeks before the live webinar to ensure there are no technical difficulties and that each person understands the way the platform works.

Another webinar tip and trick is that each individual needs to plan accordingly for his or her own performance. “You need to think about how you want to look — dressing the part with a shirt and tie or being casual in a hoodie and letting the content speak for itself,” Platt says. “Practice using hand gestures in camera view. Practice smiling and nodding even when you’re muted — those things go a long way.”

It’s important to remember that most attendees registered for the event because of the content, but they stay because of the presenters. It’s imperative to make sure the presentation is engaging and worth attendees’ time.

“Remember, whether you’re on camera or not, the webinar is being recorded forever and could potentially be broadcast to the world,” Platt says.

Webinar Tip 6: Know Your Audience

Webinars can be used as tools to promote programs to residential customers, educational resources to small business owners or training materials to employees. No matter what your utility’s goal, it’s critical to understand the audience that will be attending to develop webinar content appropriately. In addition, knowing your audience’s interests or level or expertise and developing webinars to meet their needs is an immediate way to build trust.

Invest in open and closed captioning subtitles and provide options for multilingual viewing. Depending on your service territory, you may not be able to assume that English is your customers’ preferred language, and you should never assume that they can hear spoken language.

“Make the investment” in multilingual support, Platt says. “Build that trust with your customers and prove to them that your utility cares. If you don’t, you’re missing out on an important touchpoint.”

National Grid and Eversource lean into this, ensuring all its customers are accounted for when producing webinars. As customers struggled financially due to the pandemic, National Grid and Eversource developed webinars to promote their financial assistance programs. To accommodate the varying needs of customers, the webinars were produced with closed captioning and broadcast in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The webinars also included live video of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, which attracted nearly 1,000 attendees to its broadcast alone.

Illustration of case study that reads National Grid and Eversource focus on inclusivity in a virtual world

Webinar Tip 7: Make the Presentation Engaging

Despite expert presenters and subject matter experts, if a presentation falls flat, so does the whole webinar. After all, “It’s not a presentation that you’re delivering, it’s an experience that you’re giving,” says Bornstein.

A few simple webinar tips and tricks when creating the deck for your presentation include:

  • Keep the text to a minimum
  • Utilize bullet points for easy skimming
  • Include relevant imagery
  • Build links into the content

“If you can’t sell it in three bullet points and a pretty picture, you’re talking too much,” says Platt. “The purpose of a webinar is getting people interested in taking another action. You don’t need to explain everything, just enough for them to want to know more.”

“We’ve seen a great evolution away from talking PowerPoints to creating really great serialized programming in the world of webinars,” Bornstein says. “We’ve seen webinars do all these really cool formats, where there are interview shows and news style formats and coffee talks and chat shows and they’re really taking their inspiration from TV-like viewing experiences more than the old-school tutorials of the past.”

Webinar Tip 8: Plan for the Unexpected

As everyone has been keenly aware of during the past two years of increased digital experiences, technology is not always on our side. This is why it’s so important for your webinar’s host and presenters to prepare for every failure that could happen. “Whether your cell phone battery dies or the dog is barking or a tree is being cut down in your yard, plan for the unexpected,” says Platt. “Plan for failure and you will avoid failing.”

When preparing for a webinar, Questline Digital recommends:

  • Have a hard copy of your script and presentation on hand
  • Charge and mute your phone
  • Share your phone number with the other presenters and webinar producers in case of disconnection
  • Have a backup way of connecting to audio

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a webinar technical producer, it’s that planning for the unexpected is imperative to the success of a webinar event,” explains Josh Dozer, Client Operations Coordinator for Questline Digital. “Numerous contingencies have been put in place to account for as many unknowns as possible, dramatically improving the experiences of both audience members and presenters alike. However, it’s still up to each individual to plan and prepare for the unknowns.”

Quotation about webinar tricks and tips that reads Plan for failure and you will avoid failing

Webinar Tip 9: Follow Up with Registrants

Another key webinar tip and trick is to connect with all registrants after the live event. This includes the following groups:

  • Those who registered and attended
  • Those who registered but didn’t attend
  • Those who didn’t register or attend

Each follow-up email should contain a message that is specific to the intended receivers. For those who didn’t register or attend the webinar, the follow-up needs to explain how your utility felt the topic was important enough to reach out again.

For the other two types of follow-up messages, saying “thank you for attending” or “sorry we missed you” goes a long way. Provide key takeaways from the webinar and a link to view the webinar on-demand. A multistate Northeast investor-owned utility has gone a step further to embed a survey link in their follow-up communications to encourage customers to share about their webinar experiences. The survey responses help the utility best prepare for its future webinars.

In addition, you can create brief audio or video highlights from the webinar that can be shared on social media, in emails or on your website. For example, Questline Digital identifies relevant soundbites from each webinar we host and turns them into short audio recordings to share on social media.

Example of audio content for webinar tips and tricks

Platt recommends this tactic specifically as a list-building activity. “If you’ve scripted it well and have done a good presentation, you can take a 60-minute webinar and cut it into five 10-minute segments to promote to customers who you don’t have an email address for and attain that information from them,” he says.

Bornstein adds, “Now, you can build the event and take the event content and repurpose it in so many different ways. Perhaps creating personalized experiences or virtual roadshows using a targeted personalized landing page. This means that digital events are not just an event, they’re a strategy.”

Webinar Tip 10: Make the Webinar Available On-Demand

An absolute must-have when it comes to webinars is making the event available on-demand following the live production. This extends the lifecycle of the content and allows customers to continue the webinar experience, whether they originally registered or not.

Questline Digital offers on-demand webinars as a standard part of our webinar solution for energy utilities. We can also provide a cleaned-up recording of the webinar, where our video producers switch between full-screen cameras and the presentation to increase engagement.

As an additional benefit of on-demand webinars, Platt recommends capturing customers’ names and email addresses when they view the recording. “This is another touchpoint where your utility can continue to build its lists and extend the reach of its communication.”

Successful Webinars Begin with Preparation

The most engaging and successful webinars are created through consistent preparation and practice. Between the speakers, host and presentation, there are many moving parts to getting a webinar up and running. The key is to remember how the pieces come together and to begin preparations well in advance.

“Post-COVID audiences expect a different kind of connection and a different kind of communication,” Bornstein says. “They’re looking for us to connect in real, authentic ways. They’re looking for experiences that are interactive. Maybe they’re looking to be entertained a little bit, but they’re looking for experiences that are real, human, authentic and approachable.”

Whether your goal is to educate customers or employees, following these webinar tips and tricks will set your utility up for long-term success.

Download Questline Digital’s free checklist and follow our experts’ tips and tricks to boost engagement during your utility’s next webinar.

Learn how Questline Digital’s energy experts can educate your target audience with engaging, interactive and personalized online webinars.

With a background in broadcast news, Todd Long has made it his mission to transform Huntsville Utilities into a valuable information source for customers. As Electronic Content Administrator, Long has taken a customer-centric approach to every communication, whether social media posts, news releases or episodes of the utility’s award-winning YouTube show.

“My very first job in television was writing news topicals, which promoted the stories of the day,” he recals. “I’d always ask the producers, ‘Tell me the story that has the most benefit to viewers.’ It’s the same approach I use here. I’m always looking to share useful information that will provide the most value to our customers.”

Headshot of Todd Long energy spotlight

Long and his team recently received the award for Most Creative Social Media Campaign at E Source Forum for Huntsville Utilities Television (HUTV). The show provides a lighthearted approach to important energy topics. While the show began as a Facebook Live every Friday, he explains, it proved too difficult to produce live during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team now creates weekly episodes in a pre-recorded format.

“My wheelhouse is producing for television, so I automatically default to shooting video, editing video or writing for video,” Long says. “I’ve turned this skill into an added bonus in my work here.”

In addition to his passion for video, Long understands the power of social media as a customer engagement tool. When he came to Huntsville Utilities nearly five years ago, they were only using social media for power outage updates. Since taking the helm, Long has grown the utility’s social media presence by sharing educational yet entertaining tips, need-to-know resources and heartfelt stories that humanize the utility. This has led to considerable growth on all digital platforms.

“The biggest thing that I tell people is to treat social media with the seriousness it deserves,” he explains. “In fact, 57% of people will go to a digital platform first if they want to make contact with your company. And the time of day doesn’t mean anything to your customers. They assume, ‘If I’m on social media right now, my utility should be too.’”

Most people only think about their energy utility when there is a power outage or when they receive their energy bill. That’s why Long focuses communications on being a helpful resource to customers, while also entertaining them. “I just like to have fun, laugh and make other people laugh,” he says. “If I can combine all of these things and get paid for it, what could be better than that?”

Along with the fun content on social media, he is also focused on educating customers on the realities of the utility industry and what it takes to keep their power on. “During an outage, our lineworkers aren’t just sitting around waiting for it to stop raining,” Long explains. “They are out in the storm risking serious injury or worse to get your power back on. I think showing this side of utility work has made a big impact.”

Questline Digital spoke with Long to get his thoughts on innovative ways to reach utility customers, changes in the industry and the essential role of social media.

How did you get started in the energy utility industry?

I ended up in it by chance. I’ve been in marketing and communications for just over 20 years. I was trained as a videographer and worked in an advertising agency straight out of college. I was eventually hired away by the CBS affiliate in the city where I lived, where they used me in their marketing and promotions department to produce what are known as “topicals.” These are the short commercials you see on network TV telling you why you should watch that station’s upcoming newscast. While that’s a very specific type of marketing, I’ve found the basic strategies behind it cross over into what I currently do in my work for the utility industry.

I continued doing this type of work for TV stations across the country, including Phoenix, Arizona, and Omaha, Nebraska, before finally settling in Huntsville, Alabama. It was at that point I decided to get out of broadcasting and move into something else, as the broadcast TV industry was struggling much like newspapers at the start of the internet age. 

After working for a defense contractor, being a freelancer and one last broadcasting gig, I learned of a new position being created at Huntsville Utilities for someone who would oversee all forms of digital communication, primarily social media. I applied for the job, not knowing they already had an internal candidate lined up. They changed their minds after my interview and, fortunately for me, here I sit. (Don’t worry, they found a different full-time job for the other guy.)

What has changed the most about your job working in the utility industry over the course of your career?

I’ve only been in the utility industry for about five years, so I wouldn’t say a lot has changed there. However, having been a communications professional for over 20 years, the biggest change — and it impacts all industries — has been the rise (and importance) of social media.

I have a presentation I give at webinars and conferences that discusses why (and I firmly believe this) your company’s social media presence is the most important thing your communications team is doing. The immediacy. The size of the audience. The low cost of use. The give and take with the customers. It’s completely redefined how utilities — or any company — communicate with customers.

Of course, something that important has to be used properly, and it bothered me when I would see a utility company that was basically taking the approach of, “Oh, social media is just a young person’s thing. Have an intern take care of it, and we’ll check it off the list.”

What excites you the most about the energy utility space? 

Being able to teach people more about it. When I first came on board at Huntsville Utilities, I spent so much time just doing research and asking questions, trying to learn as much as I could about what it takes to have this amazing infrastructure we have.

Now I get to pass that information along to our customers. So many people — myself included, before I joined the company — just take this for granted. Flip the switch, you’ve got light. Turn on the tap, there’s the water. Turn on the heater, the gas heats your home. But there’s just so much more to it than that. These people who work out in the field risk injury or worse every day. But if they didn’t do that, our society would degrade into something out of “The Walking Dead” pretty much overnight. The pandemic helped people realize that a lot more, I think.

What campaign or initiative are you most proud of?
We produce a weekly (well, when our schedule allows, it’s weekly) web show called HUTV: Huntsville Utilities Television. We take a serious, beneficial topic (how to prepare your home for winter, how to avoid utility scams, etc.) and “sandwich it in silliness.” Last month, we received the “Most Creative Social Media Campaign” award for it at the annual E Source Forum. You can check it out on our YouTube channel.

What’s a marketing campaign you wish you’d thought of (inside or outside the energy industry)?

Many years ago, there was a product called “Head On,” which was a rub-on headache remedy. The spots were just a guy saying, “Head On: Apply directly to the forehead” over and over again. Simple, but people remembered it.

What is the hardest part of working in the energy industry today? 
We’re a target. Some people just aren’t going to understand what it takes to provide them with electricity, water and natural gas. To them, we’re just the big building downtown that wants a check every month. Even though Huntsville Utilities literally has some of the lowest rates in the nation, we have customers who will still say they’re paying too much. And you can’t change their minds because they don’t want their minds to be changed.

There are a lot of people in this country who are just angry, and in a twisted way, being angry is what makes them happy. Social media has given them an outlet for that.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t working in the utility industry, I would be…

Still in communications/PR/advertising, but not in sales. I did that for a while and hated it. I definitely wouldn’t be having as much fun in life as I’m having now. I work with a great group of people and we’re all friends outside of work as well. I’ve had other companies contact me and ask me to consider working for them, but I always just tell them “No, thank you.” I’m having too much fun where I’m at.

How do you anticipate the world of energy evolving in the coming years?

Obviously, the discussion of climate change will continue. We’re a natural gas provider at Huntsville Utilities as well, but we don’t see too much of the anti-natural gas talk you see in other parts of the country. In fact, we have a waiting list for people who want it hooked up in their homes. We can’t get the pipe laid fast enough to keep up. Every now and then, someone will chime in with some “leave it in the ground” talk, but our customers tend to rally to the defense of natural gas.

Huntsville Utilities doesn’t generate electricity, we just purchase it from TVA as a distributor. But we do work closely with TVA and other organizations on projects involving renewable energy and long-term storage.

I also think we’re on the verge of a sudden, big jump in electric vehicle adoption. That’s what I’m looking forward to, and we’re starting to see it in Huntsville. I know I (personally) am tired of paying $3 per gallon.

What advice would you give to those entering the utility space?

Like any job, it’s not for everyone. I’m fortunate in that I ended up at a forward-thinking company that allows me to try new things and be out on the fringes a bit. The great thing about the utility industry is that while it’s going through changes, it will still always be around in some form or fashion.

Participation in Questline Digital’s Energy Spotlight series does not indicate an endorsement from utility partners.