The good news is that it can’t possibly get any more miserable in my house. After three-and-a-half days without power the indoor and outdoor temperatures have pretty much equalized. My refrigerator thermometer (no longer needed in my fridge) recorded 36 degrees in my living room this morning, about halfway between today’s expected high and expected low. So if I’m forced to sleep yet another night in an unheated house, it certainly couldn’t get any worse than last night.
Of course I’m far from the only one suffering through the power outage, a fact I was reminded of constantly throughout my four hours on 710-KIRO last night as I took calls from cold, tired people throughout the region. Some just wanted to complain, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Some called to offer take in those less fortunate, and it was wonderful to hear such generosity. A few callers actually seemed to be enjoying the adventure. More power to them. (So to speak.)
But most were clearly frustrated at least as much by the lack of useful information out there as they were by the inconvenience and discomfort. Puget Sound Energy customers — of which over 200,000 households were still dark last night — were especially angry over what they felt to be a lack of responsiveness from their power company. After three hours of callers bashing PSE on-air, I finally challenged the company to call in and give me an update… and to their credit they did.
Likewise, Seattle City Light eventually responded to repeated calls from linemen who were angry that they were being pulled from the field last night when they felt they were still fresh. City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco called in to explain that only crews that had been out in the field for 17 hours or longer were being pulled, but linemen continued to call KIRO to refute him. This went on for hours, with linemen and customers growing increasingly suspicious until finally a manager called in to explain that yes indeed, most crews were being called in from the fields, but only so that they could synchronize teams the next morning in the daylight. One can disagree with that strategy if one wants, but at least it’s a reasonable explanation to what at first seemed to be an unreasonable management decision.
I mention all this because it points out how important good communications and PR is, not just to corporations and government officials, but to customers and constituents. I know a few government communications officials, and I love to tease them as sell-outs and hacks (yeah… I’m talking about you Sandeep,) but the truth is they provide a valuable service.
It’s one thing to be kept in the dark due to downed power lines. We all understand the enormity of the situation and the incredible work the linemen and other crews are putting into restoring our power. But it is just damn frustrating to be figuratively kept in the dark about the pace of repairs, and the decision making process that has led management to focus their efforts on some areas over others.
Stations like KIRO have pretty much covered the outage 24/7 since the wind storm hit, and company and public officials are being just plain stupid if they’re waiting for us to call them to get the latest updates and information. The linemen in the field are so dedicated to their work that they’re calling to complain when they’re pulled off the job. The communications staffs need to be just as tireless and proactive.
The media, legacy and new, is a valuable resource. Use us.
As long as I’m lecturing corporate America, I thought I’d send a message to Starbucks… a message sent via the free WiFi network provided by Tully’s. Perhaps Tully’s free WiFi hasn’t directly generated enough extra business to make up for the revenues they could have earned by charging for the service, but it has certainly generated an enormous amount of goodwill and customer loyalty. Given a choice, I’ll certainly choose Tully’s over Starbucks in the future, if only out of a sense of gratitude.
There’s more to running a good business than counting beans — even when it comes to selling coffee.