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The Passing of the Torch | Advice from the 2015 Brand Champions

Published On: April 28, 2016

It is hard to believe we are already preparing to honor four new Touchstone Energy Brand Champions in less than two weeks. We caught up with two of the 2015 winners–Nancy McDonald from the Association of Illinois Electric Co-ops and Joe Sikes with Canoochee EMC, GA–to see what impact the award has made, if they had any advice for the next group of honorees and any words of wisdom they might have for the network about the value of Touchstone Energy.

Brand Champion NominationsJoe: First of all, I was completely shocked to be awarded the Touchstone Brand Champion award. Nancy and Jimmy are both giants in our field, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to share this award in the same year. [Note: Jimmy Baker of Palmetto Electric Cooperative, SC (pictured) has retired, and we didn’t want to interrupt his well deserved rest and relaxation for an interview. However, if you somehow get this post, Jimmy, you have an open invitation to send a guest column to [email protected]!] [Follow Up Note: In true Brand Champion style, we heard from Jimmy right after this post went live; check out his note below.]

Quite frankly I constantly question myself, particularly about how good of a job I am doing. Like many of us, I have many different duties. These can really vary in any given day, so it was very special to be recognized for my Touchstone Energy efforts. This feeling of accomplishment hasn’t really subsided since last May.

Nancy: I feel that being named a Brand Champion was a big honor and not one to be taken for granted. If anything, it has made me take a look at everything I do to help our members use the brand effectively and provide even more assistance. I have hosted one Touchstone Energy roundtable discussion for our southern Illinois co-ops and am preparing to host another one for our northern co-ops. I am also putting together an e-newsletter that focuses on Touchstone Energy and includes general best practices and information for member services and marketing representative positions, which can also be shared with co-op CEOs.

One of the resources that has so much potential is Lynda.com. I have promoted it heavily for two reasons. First, it is such a valuable online toolbox for any employee at a co-op or statewide organization. Second, it allows us to show our boards and managers the value of the brand in black and white. When you are talking about a resource that is just one aspect of the brand and has a minimum value of $7,500 per co-op, people take notice. All employees at our association are required to take two Lynda.com courses each year. It helps with creating “top of the mind awareness” with the tool. Plus, our Member Services/Marketing meeting is later this week, and I have asked our magazine editor to provide a “tour” of the Lynda.com website.

Joe: Advice is always tough, but honestly it takes hard work and a great group of coworkers, as well as colleagues, to help out when necessary. We are not in this alone, and it is important to reach out to each other to discuss ideas. I’m very fortunate to have built great rapport with people from throughout the country. We are all really brand champions, and I’m just happy that everyone helped me out when I needed it. 2016 winners, please share your ideas! It’s very important that we grow as a community.

Nancy: For people who would like to become Brand Champions, tell them to get involved–join national committees, be a team player, volunteer to run an event, get to know their regional member and help the regional member come up with ideas that can help everyone in their group. As far as advice for new Brand Champions is concerned, I think sharing their best practices is the best way they can help others. What are they doing that no one else is? Where do their biggest successes lie? How can those tools be adapted to suit alternative audiences, and areas?

If you are at CONNECT ’16, please be sure to join us in the Grand Ballroom at 8:30 a.m. on Wed., May 11 to help celebrate the men and women from across the country who have helped build the brand by sharing their innovation, integrity and passion. Also visit us at 8 a.m. on Thurs., May 12 to learn best practices from the 2016 Brand Champions and others during “Positioning Your Co-op As A Trusted Source” in Broadway I & II.

BREAKING BRAND NEWS: We just received an email from Jimmy Baker! “I am enjoying retirement, but miss the interaction with my Touchstone Energy “family.” Thank you so much for honoring me last year. It was certainly one of the highlights of my career. I look forward to following the continued progress of the Touchstone Energy brand. Please extend my congratulations and best wishes to the 2016 Brand Champions!” Best wishes to you too, Jimmy!

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