Spotlight on Saskatchewan: CEO Communicator Award winner Doug Kelln

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Spotlight on Saskatchewan: CEO Communicator Award winner Doug Kelln


Meeting high demands that come with being the natural gas supplier for a growing province, while maintaining an uncompromising emphasis on safety and keeping rates competitive are some of the key priorities for SaskEnergy.

And to President and CEO Doug Kelln, the inaugural winner of IABC/Regina’s CEO Communicator of the Year Award, one of the steps to meeting these challenges is building relationships through open, honest and proactive communication.

“I believe strong business communication is of great value to our corporation’s success and serves to effectively connect SaskEnergy employees to our customers on a daily basis,” Kelln says. “It was an honour to receive the CEO Communicator of the Year award, and I share this recognition with SaskEnergy’s hardworking Corporate Affairs team.” 

Kelln was appointed President and CEO of SaskEnergy in 2004 following more than two decades in the engineering, construction, planning, customer service, marketing and business development sides of the natural gas industry.

When it comes to communications – both internally and with the corporation’s customers and business partners – Kelln is anything but hands-off. Rather, he eagerly participates in crafting key messages and strategies, and sets the tone throughout the organization regarding the role communications plays in the business.

As an example, one of SaskEnergy’s core values is safety. In 2013, Kelln became the first head of a Crown corporation to sign the Mission: Zero partnership agreement with WorkSafe Saskatchewan, and has made it a personal priority to communicate the importance of safety both inside and outside of the corporation. This year he challenged the entire corporation to take steps to enhance public safety awareness when doing underground excavation work. 

There are more than 1,000 SaskEnergy employees across the province and they are the ones who literally keep the natural gas flowing. Kelln keenly recognizes the benefits of keeping the corporation’s workforce engaged, and believes in helping employees see how their daily work fits into the corporation’s overall plans.

To that end, Kelln has worked closely with SaskEnergy’s communications team on such initiatives as SaskEnergy’s Leadership Network (composed of all the company’s managers and supervisors) and key messaging related to the annual SaskEnergy Business Plan. He also continually challenges the team to come up with new, more effective ways to share the corporation’s message, such as increasing their use of short employee videos to illustrate complex business topics.

Beyond formal corporate communications, what distinguishes Kelln is his genuine interest in people and the importance he places on day-to-day interactions. He rarely misses an opportunity to connect face-to-face with employees – whether at a meeting, special event or whenever important information needs to be shared – and regularly uses videoconferencing to meet with employees when he can’t be there in-person.

“I’ve been a communicator for 29 years and have rarely come across a leader who places such a high priority on ‘real’ communications as Doug does. Whether he’s talking to the Chair of our Board of Directors, the CEO of a major industrial customer, a SaskEnergy or TransGas field technician, or a homeowner, his approach is always the same – open, honest and transparent,” says Dave Burdeniuk, SaskEnergy’s Director of Government and Media Relations.

“I’ve learned more about communications from Doug than I have from most professional communicators, yet he is always there to ask for advice, input and critique on strategic and tactical communication issues. And he ensures our unit is fully integrated throughout the organization, which is the ideal working environment to learn and thrive for our communications group.”

Is your CEO an outstanding communicator who deserves to be recognized? Keep an eye out for nomination information for the next CEO Communicator of the Year Award in the near future!