Pioneer’s McMaken wins national strategic communications award

Nanci McMaken, chief communications officer at Pioneer Electric Cooperative, has been awarded the 2020 LaBerge Award for Excellence in Strategic Communications.

The LaBerge Award was established in 2018 in memory of Justin Erick LaBerge, who was NRECA’s senior leadership communications manager. It recognizes a co-op communicator with demonstrated excellence, influence, and impact on co-op communications, both as a practitioner and contributor.

LaBerge Award judges praised McMaken as “clearly a forward-thinking leader in the communications role at her cooperative and among her peers” and for having a “seat at the table at her cooperative, influencing decisions made with a rational approach using her expertise and member research to make recommendations.”

Nominated by Pioneer CEO Ron Salyer for the award, McMaken said she believes an effective communicator needs to cultivate a broad knowledge of all co-op operations, not just those directly related to her field. Her team of 12 represents a wide array of disciplines, which she said makes her team strong.

“When I started, we had professional engineers and financial leaders in key roles, all of them with quality teams,” said McMaken, who began at Pioneer as a part-time employee in the early 1980s. “And I wanted to make sure our team was always as strong as the other professions.”

“Today our communicators’ effectiveness is more important than ever,” said Salyer. “This award highlights people like Nanci who are on top of their game and inspires others to follow her example.”