Revisiting Grande Prairie

I just got back from Grande Prairie, and I can’t tell you how freaking excited I was to be there! Is Grande Prairie a metropolitan oasis? Nope. Is it full of cool tourist attractions? Nah, not really. To be honest with you, upon first glance it doesn’t have anything particularly exceptional about it. 

So why was I so excited to be in this otherwise nondescript Northern Alberta city? For starters, Bowda has an incredible client out here – we’ve been working with them in some capacity or another since 2016. Although I’ve had a longstanding relationship with this amazing client, we’ve never actually met in person! Ah, the beauty of the internet.  I’ve been on various work trips before, but this one was particularly near and dear to my heart as they flew both me and Bowda’s graphic designer out for their gala, and I was so excited to finally get facetime with the people I’ve been emailing with for years. I was also excited to revisit a city I have a brief history with. 

Let’s rewind a little, shall we? Funny enough, this wasn’t my first trip to Grande Prairie. I actually lived there, albeit only for a few days. We moved there when I was in grade 8, but It’s not something I talk much about. At the time, my mom was married to a man who couldn’t keep a job. He decided we were going to move to Grande Prairie, and much to our dismay – we packed up our home and lives, and headed west during our reading week at school. Well, upon arriving in Grande Prairie, registering for school and attending the first couple days, turns out it was time for reading week there. With a week off school (again), it was decided we would be going on a “trip” to BC. Well, that trip involved bringing the U Haul and was actually yet another move. We only got to call GP home for a few short days/ weeks, and although I don’t remember much about the city itself – I do remember how he made me feel. He constantly told me I would never amount to anything in life, how I would end up pregnant at 16 and working at McDonald’s for the rest of my life. Hearing this so much at a young age caused a myriad of insecurities that I still battle today. Ironically enough, I even went to McDonald’s to apply for a job during the short stint we were there. 

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I’m back in GP – for work this time (and no, not at McDonald’s although there would be nothing wrong with that if that was my dream!). I run my own business that I am lucky enough to do full time, and our client flew us out here to attend their gala. Never in a million years would I have thought this would be my life.

So, why share this? Well I think there is so much power in sharing your story – especially the hardships. If I went through this, maybe someone else did too, and will find the strength to share their experience as well. The path to success is very rarely linear, and your past by no means determines your future. Life will always throw hardships our way, and as humans we can find solace in knowing that we aren’t alone on this journey. 

Being a perfectionist, I also tend to always focus on how much further I still have to go with things – life, work, business, everything really.  It’s really humbling to take a moment to appreciate where I am right now, and recognize how far I have already come. Although I’m still that insecure girl that constantly doubts herself, I am now that insecure girl who recognizes her struggles, has her very own business, life partner, loving home, fur babies, and part time career in the Canadian Armed Forces. 

Thank you for the perspective, Grande Prairie. You’re a gem of a town and I can’t wait to see what other lessons you have for me the next time we meet. Let’s not make it 20 years again this time though, k?

Hydro Ottawa – An Example of Crisis Communications Done Right

On Friday, September 21st two tornadoes devastatingly hit our nation’s capital, and left most of the city without power in their wake. Hydro Ottawa immediately stepped up to the plate, and not only had crew members out at all hours, but it was clear their communications team were called in as well. If you followed Hydro Ottawa on any of their social media platforms, you were likely well informed about the events that happened, and how they took care of our city.

Here a few ways that they set a stellar example of crisis communications:

Before the Outage

  • Before the storm even hit, Hydro Ottawa was proactive about tweeting tips about preparing for a power outage, and photos of their trucks ready to respond.
  • Although these posts received low levels of engagement, it demonstrates that the team was on the ball and ready for the chaos that was about to ensue. They took the weather warnings seriously, and made sure that they were ready to go on all fronts.

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During the Outage

Kept the community informed

  • It seemed that as soon as the tornadoes hit, the Hyrdo Ottawa social media team made it their goal to keep the community informed. They continually posted as many updates as they could, particularly on their Twitter account, to let Ottawa know that the crews were out working hard to bring power back to the city.

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Shared a mix of media

  • In a crisis, we will take any updates we can get, but the Hydro Ottawa seriously raised the bar on this one. Not only did they provide a healthy dose of real time photos, and video messages from the Hydro Ottawa team, they even posted drone coverage of the affected area. This showed their audience that they were on scene, that they were up to date, and that they cared about informing the community in the most modern way possible.

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Established realistic expectations

  • The Hydro Ottawa team was realistic in how many people they could get back to via social media, and what information they were able to provide. They weren’t giving out power restoration timelines if they couldn’t ensure that they could meet them. They provided as much information as they could, and it was clear the entire time that they were doing the absolute best they could. They really showed the human side of the company, and gently reminded people that they were real people too.

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Let people know they were being heard

  • This is probably one of the most important things you can do for your audience anytime, but even more so in a crisis. Our community was in devastation, people tragically lost their homes, Hydro Ottawa made sure to say hey, we not only hear you, but we see you. And that is some powerful stuff.

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Shared key information more than once 

  • In the fast paced world of social media, particularly with Twitter, it’s quite easy to miss things. The Hydro Ottawa frequently and consistently shared helpful tips and information, and wasn’t afraid to reuse important messaging. This is critical in a crisis, if you already have the messaging don’t be shy to share it consistently and reserve your organic responses for live updates, addressing queries, and answering questions.

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After the Outage 

Continuing to keep the community informed 

  • Even after the outage is over and most of the city is restored, Hydro Ottawa is doing a fantastic job of letting people know what else they can expect, and how they can facilitate the process. There are still parts of the community that are in the dark and it is clear that Hydro Ottawa won’t be slowing down until power is restored everywhere.

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In any type of crisis, communication is key. The more information people have, the calmer they will remain. Hydro Ottawa struck the perfect balance here; providing updates and support consistently and frequently, while also establishing realistic expectations (that they often exceeded, in many instances I heard of power being restored before the expected restoration time). It’s not surprising to hear that in 2017 they were recognized by both CS Week and the Electricity Distributor’s Association for their social media efforts.

If you’re not already following Hydro Ottawa on Twitter, I highly recommend doing so. This is a company that is leveraging the power of social media in a meaningful way. They are using it to connect with their audience, and take care of their community. THIS, my friends, is what social media is all about.