Keller Kissam was recently let in on a well-kept secret.
The Dominion Energy South Carolina president of electric operations was nominated for an award for excellence in communication and leadership.
And he won.
On April 30, the South Carolina Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America announced Kissam was its recipient of the 2019 Executive Excellence Award. It is given annually to a South Carolina business leader in honor of being an outstanding communications ambassador and for showing exceptional support to the company’s communications team.
“I am without words to describe how much I appreciate my relationship with all of you,” Kissam said to the company’s marketing and communications group when he got the news.
"Communication is important, and it is work. It takes time, and it takes effort. You often run the risk of confrontation. You can’t focus simply on what your business does. You need to focus on how you inform a variety of stakeholders – primarily your customers," Kissam said. "Daily coordination through a solid corporate communications team is of extreme importance and requires intentional planning and execution. An award like this reflects the hard work, outstanding skills and steadfast dedication from our communications team, which is a group of people I’m proud to work with every day."
SCPRSA normally holds an in-person, dress-up ceremony to celebrate award recipients in various categories, but this year’s celebration was virtual.
None of that really matters to Kissam. He would choose to wear a lineman’s uniform to work if it were up to him.
“Of anything I have ever received in my life, these words at the end I will cherish more than anything,” the Creston farming-community native said after reading testimonials Dominion Energy communications professionals wrote about him in the nomination package.
Rhonda O’Banion, manager of public relations for Dominion Energy South Carolina, said, “Keller’s communication style consistently exudes energy, charisma, authenticity and authority – leaving his audiences eager to carry out his call to action and feeling like they just received a good word in church. He’s a leader who communicates so powerfully and passionately, and basically says for me to tell him where I need him, and he’ll be there. That’s what every PR professional wishes to have.”
Love your neighbor as yourself
O’Banion’s testimonial shares a common theme with all the others: Kissam cares. Kissam connects. Kissam communicates.
That’s what draws him to company-sponsored events like Midlands Gives, which was May 5.
Dominion Energy was the top sponsor with a $100,000 donation to nonprofits throughout the Midlands. When there was an in-person component in years past, Kissam was known for taking local TV personalities up in a bucket truck while doing interviews to encourage people to give what they can to help neighbors in need.
This year’s event was online, but that didn’t kill Kissam’s enthusiasm.
During a Facebook Live interview, JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation, asked him what motivates Dominion Energy to be such big supporters of the community.
“All of our employees live in our communities, and they are our neighbors,” he said. “And what do you do? You love your neighbor as yourself. Midlands Gives gives us that great opportunity to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”
He added, “This thing called COVID-19 has kind of come between us. We don’t get to high five, we don’t get to handshake, and we don’t get to hug. … Even though there’s been that separation between us and our customers, Midlands Gives – this day of caring – gives us the opportunity to embrace our customers – our neighbors – in a very symbolic and very meaningful way that will carry them through and have an impact upon them throughout the coming year.”
When Dominion Energy hosted a communications professional development conference on its corporate campus in Cayce last year, Kissam, who has been with the company for more than 30 years, greeted the attendees – just as he did the year before.
He spoke passionately about the importance of transparency in communications. He emphasized the critical role of values-based messages in credibly connecting with an audience.
Keeping customers safe, informed
“In every interaction with customers, business leaders, regulators and legislators, Keller is an ambassador for Dominion Energy’s employees in South Carolina – the thousands of men and women who give their best every day to meet the energy needs of more than a million families and businesses across the state,” said Eric Boomhower, director of public affairs and employee communications for Dominion Energy South Carolina. “He communicates with clarity, credibility and compassion on our behalf. He also makes it a priority to personally meet and welcome, on their first day, every new employee who is hired into the company.”
When hurricanes, ice storms and other major weather events interrupt service to customers across the state, Kissam leads the charge to keep customers informed while overseeing the company’s restoration efforts.
He was key in communications with Hurricane Dorian last year before, during and after the storm. Dorian impacted nearly 280,000 Dominion Energy customers in South Carolina. He accompanied Dominion Energy media relations professionals across the state for press briefings and in-person interviews with news outlets to keep customers safe and informed.
Kissam is committed to ensuring operational excellence and to making it easier for customers to do business with Dominion Energy.
Under his leadership, Dominion Energy South Carolina has achieved historic results in electric service reliability and set new standards for safety.
Along with Rodney Blevins, president of Dominion Energy South Carolina, Kissam has helped lead the company’s efforts to invest in a clean and sustainable energy future while driving initiatives to improve quality of life in communities across the state.
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