It’s a given that a strong public affairs department can help a company curry favor with regulators and keep politicians out of its business affairs. What’s less obvious are the bottom-line benefits. At Time Warner Cable, executives see no reason why an effective public affairs initiative shouldn’t attract customers and increase revenue as well as cast the company in the role of a good corporate citizen. Each of the MSO’s divisions has its own public affairs executives responsible for tailoring campaigns that fit their communities. The initiatives typically highlight cable’s local advantage, which helps in its continuing battle against satellite for subscribers. "It is good for our business," says Bonnie Hathaway, VP, community service and public affairs, for Time Warner Cable. "In a competitive landscape, local, local, local is the key differentiator." The MSO’s executives insist their public affairs initiatives, which mainly tout education and literacy, attract customers. Educated customers are more likely to subscribe to advanced services such as high-speed data. And the local residents who benefit from these efforts are more likely to pick Time Warner Cable over its competitors. "Do well by doing good," Hathaway says. "It touches so much of what we do." Management Buy-In It was no surprise to C-SPAN VP, affiliate relations, Peter Kiley that Time Warner Cable ranked highest among MSOs in the public affairs category in CableWORLD‘s affiliate survey, which was sent out to our programming subscribers in January. After all, Time Warner Cable has more high-level executives in public affairs than other MSOs. And those executives have been around longer than most, which lends continuity to Time Warner Cable’s campaigns. "Time Warner Cable truly stands out in the industry and the local communities," says Kiley, who also serves as president of the Cable Television Public Affairs Association. Although the corporate brass in Stamford, Conn., dictates that education be the focus of all public affairs initiatives, the divisions are given autonomy to craft campaigns that work in their markets. "What works in Hawaii is not what works in Portland, Maine," says Hathaway, who is part of a six-person team in the corporate public affairs department. "In Stamford, we can’t say one size fits all." But it’s also the corporate brass that makes public affairs a priority at Time Warner Cable. Until recently, this was personified by ex-COO John Billock, who tutored local Stamford kids every Tuesday at 3 p.m. as part of the MSO’s 20-year-old literacy and mentoring program, Time to Read. "Senior management has always understood the importance of doing well and doing good at the same time," Hathaway says. "It really is part of our DNA." That high-level participation has rubbed off on Time Warner Cable employees. For example, 22 of the MSO’s 29 divisions have their own Time to Read initiatives, and more than 3,500 employees and community volunteers participate as tutors. The linchpin in Time Warner Cable’s public affairs successes is Hathaway, says Kiley. He suggests that Hathaway’s public affairs department should be a model for other MSOs. "Bonnie’s been phenomenal in making sure that programmers have the right resources, and she makes sure that we use those resources effectively," he says. "She’s the one who helps us create appropriate public affairs messages that work for programmers, Time Warner Cable and the local community." Five Time Warner Cable Affiliate Campaigns That Work National Teacher Awards. Entering its 16th year, the National Teacher Awards (logo at right) program honors educators who most effectively use Time Warner Cable-provided resources in their classrooms. "We really see the impact of the products and materials they developed for the teachers," Hathaway says. Know TV. An initiative developed in the early 1990s with TLC, the program created a media literacy curriculum and set up teacher workshops at local schools. The Common Good. Set up with C-SPAN five years ago, this initiative has business leaders share workplace experiences with high school students. Start Smart. Launched with Bravo, this initiative increased awareness of the need for arts education by using classroom and community events. C-SPAN School Buses. C-SPAN’s Peter Kiley says Time Warner Cable systems are the most popular destinations for the buses, which serve as a mobile public affairs tours for cable systems. Time Warner Cable always has participated at a high level, particularly in Columbus, Ohio, which is where buses go for regular maintenance.