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The propane industry’s place in the future

August 16, 2018 By    

Not much changes in the propane industry, am I right?

Maybe this was the case in years past, but something different is happening now. You can almost feel it.

Recent travel has once again brought some key points to the forefront. These aren’t exactly your run-of-the-mill kind of issues, either. We’re talking about the viability of our industry’s future. In some cases, heavy lifting is involved; industry leaders and decision-makers are maneuvering into position; and no small amount of funds are being earmarked for projects that could change the complexion of the industry.

Propane marketers offer a product that improves the lives of homeowners and the livelihood of business owners, farmers and fleet vehicle operators. Not everyone holds that same perspective, however. The war on fossil fuels – and a push toward electricity, sourced (ironically) from the fossil-fuel coal – has gained the industry’s attention.

You try to gain a sense of which way this is all going to go. You trust in the leaders who stand before the industry and respect the volunteers who devote their personal time to the cause. You feel excitement knowing opportunity exists for our fuel, but maybe a little nervous because of what’s at stake. The energy environment is a competitive field full of diverse players.

Taking action

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) sees such a need to address this “electrify everything” movement that it plans to spend $200,000 of its near $1 million corporate communications budget on a new thought leadership initiative.

This comes at a time when PERC is also reformulating (from the “Blue the Dog” campaign days) and integrating a marketing communications program that contains a digitally-focused homeowner outreach function.

The plan with thought leadership is for the council to operate a public relations campaign designed to help make propane part of the national energy conversation. It’s also designed to position PERC and the propane industry as leaders in forward-thinking, efficient and socially-responsible energy, and to raise awareness that propane is clean, abundant, affordable, convenient and made in America – the fuel’s attributes that you don’t hear often enough.

Former PERC president and CEO Roy Willis spoke often about propane on television, on radio, in print publications, at meetings of state energy officers, with the U.S. energy secretary, at conferences on clean energy and sustainability, and at other gatherings of all types and sizes. He also had a strong presence on Twitter. At what is arguably a greater time of need for the industry, just how PERC chooses to adapt its thought leadership effort this time, under new leadership – and the individuals it tabs to carry those all-important messages – will be worth watching.

Of course, the better the brand awareness of propane, the better our industry looks to prospective employees. Ensuring a workforce of the future solidifies our industry’s ability to effectively service customers for years to come.

PERC is taking an initial step in this area by approving $250,000 for workforce recruitment, with content and programs geared to help marketers and state entities. This is all part of a larger industrywide push.

The fight for our industry’s future – whether it’s elevating our fuel in the face of local regulatory efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emission levels or growing the overall employee base as older generations exit businesses – has only just begun. But that doesn’t make any current decision or new idea any less meaningful. On the contrary, it’s more of a reason to get moving and get it right.

For other developments from the national council’s July meeting in Minneapolis, check out our coverage on pages 8 and 46. And, as always, please feel free to weigh in on any of these topics via my email address below.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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