Utility PR 101: Glossy mailers galore!

It's snowing PR!
Rebecca Bowe

PG&E’s public-relations playbook (“Defending Your Shareholder-Owned Electric Company Against New Municipalization Threats, authored by San Francisco PR firm Solem & Associates), Tab IV, Section 17, instructs: “Design and implement a direct-mail program.”

“A general rule of thumb is that a campaign should send at least three pieces of mail to targeted voters. Direct mail allows the campaign to target messages to specific voter groups. The research program will help you determine which messages are most effective for each targeted voter group. If your community includes ethnic groups with significant numbers that speak other languages, you may want to produce bilingual mail pieces.”

PG&E is obviously going whole hog on this one, as it has apparently felled a few forests in order to send out gigantic fold-out mailers communicating to voters that community choice aggregation is a risky plot crafted by “the politicians.” These portable billboards are glossy and colorful, and do not seem like they can be safely composted or burned.  The mailers repeat the phrase “fraught with risk,” which is coincidentally the No. 1 line in the playbook under Tab V, “Sample Campaign Messages.”

If the bilingual mailer that went out recently is any indication, PG&E’s PR consultants have determined that it’s important to target San Francisco’s Asian population, and that they are most likely to respond to pictures of giant microscopes. This mailer is about five feet long when you unfold it all the way, and it also features photos of Asian people peering through enormous magnifying glasses. The mailers seem to refer to “politicians” in the same way die-hard environmental activists talk about “corporations.”