Q: What would your best advice be for utilities when it comes to having the right plan of action during times of crisis?
The most important thing is having a solid plan that empowers the team to act quickly and cohesively. It is crucial that the messaging to all stakeholders – whether it be to media, customers or government officials – is both timely and consistent. The best advice that I can give utilities is to be first and to be human. You need to make sure that from the get-go you are the first out to tell the story and control the narrative. Speaking on behalf of Hydro Ottawa, outages are always considered as an opportunity for the utility. It’s a situation where your customers are a captive audience, and you have the ability to change their perceptions of your brand. Be responsive, but also human. Put yourself in the shoes of the affected customers, and ensure you are meeting their expectations.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges internally at your organization when leveraging emerging technologies during a crisis?
The biggest challenge is to always speak with a consistent voice. This is the most important one because depending on what it’s the technology you are using (e.x. video, smart audio) you have to make sure that you are speaking at the same tone. Hydro Ottawa has a tone. What it that tone that you are using? During an event you also have to synchronize that approach in that consistent voice communicating the same “one truth.” All those channels have to be saying the same thing at the same time. If I’m not engaging with you year round in an honest two-way communication during an outage, you might not want to talk to me because you might not know who I am. You know the entity but you don’t have a relationship with your utility. If you have this ongoing conversation with customers over the past year you got a sense of who I’m or what I do so you are going to trust me during a period of crisis. The challenge is to maintain this two-way communication year around.
Q: What has surprised you the most about customers’ reactions on social media when you are communicating about an outage?
I’m surprised about the velocity of the amplification for an issue. The customers’ reaction in any form can amplify an issue and the velocity that it travels through social media will make it viral and you don’t know the extent of the damage. We have seen cases that in a matter of minutes we had thousands of hundreds of people who were exposed to that content.
Q: What is one interesting item about your professional career or current role that one might not know from looking at your bio or LinkedIn profile?
I delivered newspapers to get some extra money when I was a kid. I own and operate a commercial and advertising photography studio and I’m a trained commercial photographer. I shot the album cover of Alanis Morissette, a famous Canadian singer. I’m a Muay Thai practitioner.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at the Excellence in Outage & Customer Communication for Utilities Conference this March 20-21, 2019 in Charlotte, NC?
I’m looking forward to networking opportunities and sharing best practices and lessons learned. Since our industry is a monopoly market we don’t compete with each other but we share best practices and emerging trends.
Interested? Do you feel you will benefit by attending?
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