Weather-related emergencies in the utility industry are a fact of life, and the perception of utility response to these emergencies can be enhanced by positive local news coverage. It does not matter whether or not we’re talking about customers, regulators, industry partners, or some random blogger, utilities can and should be concerned with how local news coverage shapes the perception of their emergency response efforts.
How Utilities Can Positively Influence Local News Coverage
Utilities in every sector – electric, water, gas, even telecommunications – should have a plan for managing local news coverage during emergency situations that arise from extreme weather. This has always been important, but thanks to the weather impact of global warming, it is more important now than ever before.
Here are 5 tips that are relevant for utilities in any sector:
- Have a communication plan documented and signed off on by all internal decision-makers.
- Be proactive, not reactive. It is always better for utility companies to proactively reach out to local new channels before the event strikes, because this affords the opportunity to at least partially control the narrative.
- Focus on response efforts. Provide as many details and statistics to external stakeholders as possible so that they understand your company is doing everything it can to restore service as soon as possible.
- If a record was set for outages, weather force, etc., emphasize this because it increases the ‘news-worthiness’ of the communications.
- Spin the narrative to focus on the people side of the equation – for example, real life video snippets that show the dedication and heroism of field workers braving harsh and dangerous conditions for the benefit of customers.
Hopefully your company has a comprehensive, well-thought-out communication plan for emergency situations. If not, now would be a great time to develop one that is centered around enhancing local news coverage. For more detail, here is a great article that focuses on electric utilities but is relevant to all sectors. Good luck!