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.

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