Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Blackout You'll Never Hear About

The Midwest Blackout of 2008 probably will never earn a Wikipedia entry. Although millions of people were (and as of this writing are) without power, it was far too spread out to focus the attention of the national news media – let alone a disinterested general public preoccupied with Galveston, presidential elections &c.

For my own part, I lost some stuff. (Including the roof of my house, sections of fence) We lost power for two or so days. Generally it was an inconvenience rather than a problem. For the folks who actually have to deal with the issue, whether they’re spending their evenings in darkness or light, it really is a problem.

That’s not to discount the challenges of people who reallyreally need the electricity. But there’s an occupational hazard being a PR guy in that we can’t help looking at these situations through the lens of our profession.

Okay, just my take two days in. Please keep in mind I may have missed something.

As far as big-time public emergencies go, this one has gone rather well. The major service providers – Duke Energy, Time-Warner Cable [disclosure: a client but not for this], Cincinnati Bell, and the various and sundry water districts in SWOH have done a remarkable job of telling the truth, explaining the situation and managing expectations.

I have been snarking about my lack of cable in another forum, but only because I LOVES MY TEEVEE. Not proud of that, just the way it is.

Big props to the team at Duke, who went to air on the radio early and often, understanding that if your lights are out chances are you’re not watching … well, you know. One quibble: please don’t direct me to a Web site that I need electricity to reach. I wonder if all utilities should start publicizing .mobi sites and asking their audiences to bookmark them on their phones &c. Right NOW.

Just sayin’ …

Of course there were some cheesy moments (I probably missed several with my lack of access to television) and some cheap shots like cell phone companies with minor market share bragging about how few of their customers were without service. Seriously, guys: We should all switch to your service because THIS storm knocked the other guy’s towers down? Classy.

A tip of the hat to, as well. Part of my role here is to complain about the media, but when the power’s out and the Blackberry’s all you’ve got, you go to where you know you’re getting the latest. They’ve done a tremendous job of organizing their site so people (remember them?) could find the information they need before our neighbors’ demands on the bandwidth knocked us back into [acquiring …] mode.

Finally, well played by Home City Ice. If you’re counseling this company and can take credit for this, please step forward. For you out-of-towners, Home City Ice is one of the largest commercial ice producers in North America. They have taken some hits recently for some … let’s say bad choices. Two good things about it: they owned up to it and then they came back with keeping their ice factory [yes!] going 24/7 to keep food and medicines from going all icky in the refrigeration-free zone in which we find ourselves.

Well done.


Kevin said...

Amazing how one piece of news can blackout another. I've seen that with celebrity deaths too. Not to sound macabre. But they come in three's. And if the first or second one has a better agent?

Kevin said...

And the blackout reference was a complete fluke.

Lally said...

{they come in threes}

Now THAT's a DN