Firms refine power offerings as energy crisis intensifies

WASHINGTON: As California bears down for a summer of rolling

blackouts and political finger-pointing, and utility companies look to

PR to ease public fears and keep deregulation plans on track, agencies

are looking for ways to improve their energy offerings.

One solution has been to hire people with backgrounds in energy.

Burson-Marsteller recently named Jim Cunningham, former president of the

Pennsylvania Electric Association, head of its new Utility Group, and

this week brought in Ira Fine, a former senior information specialist at

the New York Power Authority, as a manager at its New York public

affairs practice.

Also in recent weeks, Ogilvy hired Jim Pierobon, once the head energy

writer at the Houston Chronicle, while APCO tapped Patrick Dorinson,

formerly communications director at Cal ISO and assistant secretary at

the Department of Energy.

In another move, many agencies have consolidated their energy offerings

into more cohesive units. Deborah Louison, SVP and director of global

services at APCO, said her firm is 'pulling together and rebranding our

global energy practice ... making much more of an effort to let it be

known what our credentials are.'

The crisis has also sparked a flurry of new business. APCO recently

signed a contract with the California alliance for Energy and Economic

Stability and at least one other energy interest.

Executives at Ogilvy also acknowledge new clients won as a result of 'a

renewed sense of urgency.'

And several firms gave oral presentations for a California Energy

Commission campaign last week.

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