The Edison Electric Institute represents investor-owned utilities that provide power to more than 220 million Americans. That means their policy interests extend far beyond Congress.
The External Affairs Team monitors energy regulations at every level of government, tracks bills in every state and even engages on local issues. The team might track 500 pieces of legislation and 100 regulatory actions across 40 states in a single year.
To get it all done, EEI invests a great deal—both time and money—in advocacy technology.
“I operate in an environment where, at any given moment, I might be utilizing four or five different tools,” said Brad Viator, executive director of external affairs.
For example, EEI uses GovPredict for legislative tracking and Phone2Action for digital advocacy. But hopping between platforms is inefficient. When Phone2Action acquired GovPredict—and later, KnowWho—and announced a plan to create a single, end-to-end platform with powerful features, Viator understood the vision immediately.
“The thing I’ve really been seeking for five years is a way to bridge all of the team members together and all of the products I’m using into one single-sign-on experience,” he said in a recent Phone2Action webinar. “With this merger, I think we’ll really start to see that functionality come together.”
EEI has a special relationship with technology. The organization operates what Viator describes as a full-service, integrated public affairs shop internally, which helps association members advocate on the federal, state and local levels. His staff helps run campaigns using Phone2Action almost every day.
“I don’t really care where the challenges to my member companies arise,” he said. “It can be in the state legislature. It can be at a local city council meeting. It can be at a public regulatory commission. It can be in the U.S. Congress. They’re all threats that have impact on my customers’ ability to do business.”
Viator said members often ask his advice on what to buy when it comes to advocacy software. “It’s important for me to understand all of the features of all of the technologies because I’m guiding clients through these decisions and I don’t want to give them bad advice,” he said. “We need to get in and get deep.”
The result is that EEI has become an early adopter, going so far as to beta test features and help software companies shape their products. Viator had that relationship with both Phone2Action and GovPredict prior to the acquisition.
“I tend to get engaged with companies and products in the beta phase,” he said. “In a lot of ways, I’m helping companies develop their products in real time. One thing I appreciate about GovPredict and Phone2Action is their willingness to have a conversation about what my needs are and to figure out how the heck we can get there together.”
The Single-Platform Goal
Even though EEI takes a hands-on approach to technology, a single-platform solution has been elusive. Viator argues that technology is supposed to free his staff from busy work and allow them to spend more productive time helping members. The requirement to learn and use multiple tools sometimes stifles that advantage.
“You’ve got this whole world of tech products that are supposed to make my life easier, they are supposed to allow the full time employees on my team to focus less on mundane details and be more creative,” he said. “The problem with this ecosystem is that you have all these products that are adjacent to one another but not overlapping.”
Consolidation, he says, would help a great deal. As Phone2Action acquires some of the best companies in the industry, Viator sees that consolidation beginning to take place.
As he put it, “this is the beginning of the consolidation that’s necessary in this space for people like me to be successful.”
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