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Touchstone Energy Cooperatives

Brand News

Plug into the Network | Can advertising engage co-op employees?

Published On: June 06, 2018

Discover how Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services implemented an innovative advertising campaign to foster employee engagement.

“Employee engagement” is not just a trendy marketing phrase. It’s a way to strengthen employee morale and ultimately build lasting relationships with member-owners. It’s a commitment that Touchstone Energy cooperatives are looking to uphold with new approaches.

Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services in Albert Lea, MN understands the importance of employee engagement. In 2015 the co-op acquired an IOU and doubled its staff – as well as increasing it’s membership base from approximately 6,000 to 21,000 members – overnight. Because of the co-op’s commitment to a collaborative and synergetic work environment, they wanted to unite all employees in their mission – and their culture – right away. Plus they needed to educate their new member-owners on the benefits of the cooperative way.

When Mary Nelson, director of cooperative relations, attended the CONNECT’17 conference in Tampa, FL last May she attended a breakout session sponsored by Touchstone Energy. During it, Director of Member Relations & Communications Anne Harvey and Communications & Member Relations Program Manager Ainsley Gutshall mentioned that co-ops can repurpose Touchstone Energy ads by customizing them with photos of their own employees.

Mary and her team were looking for a new way to engage employees and catch the attention of member-owners in their monthly newsletter. Mary thought this idea could help them do both, so she immediately reached out to Touchstone Energy to learn how to develop these new, customized employee advertisements in their monthly newsletter.

National staff was happy to help, and by July the marketing team was able to go to print with the new ads that used the Touchstone Energy print resources with images of Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services employees.

“I strive to have the newsletter be engaging and enticing, but don’t always have the time to create something new from scratch. It is really nice to have these advertising templates that I can customize. It’s a great option to keep things fresh,” Communications Specialist Dawn Schroeder explained.

The final product also catches the attention of a new demographic of readership. Friends and family of the employees who are featured not only read the newsletter but comment on the images. Member-owners also recognize the faces of employees in their communities.

This effort has not only increased readership, but has built morale and spread co-op pride.

The idea worked so well the marketing team turned it into an ongoing effort. Each month, they ask different departments if employees are willing to be featured. This outreach helps employees feel invested in their co-op and happily involved when they participate.

Although the ads are just one part of the co-op’s overarching employee engagement program, it is helpful in making employees feel that they are an ambassador even when they are outside of the workplace and not wearing a Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services uniform. Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services’ campaign has been so successful in their employee engagement efforts that they were recognized as a 2017 Best Places to Work in Southeast Minnesota by Workforce Development, Inc.

“Our employees work here, they live here and they pay their bills. They are one of us. This program has helped us show this,” Dawn continued, “We are very proud and think this shows that employees are happy to work here.”



Get to know the Touchstone Energy Brand Ambassadors who made this post possible:

Dawn Schroeder, communications specialist, and  Mary Nelson, director of cooperative relations.

Have a great story you’d like to have featured in Brand News? Submit your article today for consideration.

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