What Should Your Utility Do When It’s in a No-Win Situation?
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- Oct 15, 2019 7:30 pm GMT
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PG&E finds itself in a horrible position — one that may take years before its reputation improves.
The utility was blamed into bankruptcy last year, as its equipment was cited for causing many of the wildfires that ravaged California. And this year PG&E is taking steps to prevent a repeat by shutting off power at times of high fire risk, only to receive criticism for those measures (which, by the utility’s own admission haven’t always been handled well).
It’s a classic example of a no-win situation.
So, what’s a utility to do if it finds itself in a similar unsavory predicament?
First off, you’re going to have to take your “medicine.” There’s no quick fix.
That said, offering apologies is a starting point. If you’ve screwed up something — even if there are extenuating circumstances — take the blame where you can. (Legalities may force you to keep quiet about some things).
Aside from the apologies, your public relations team needs to be on the offensive. That means op-eds, white papers, appearances on public affairs radio and television programs and any other method of getting your point across to explain what happened and the steps you’re taking to correct it.
There also will be times you need to challenge people who are making outlandish assertions. You can’t deal with every grumble you come across on social media, but if someone writes a near-defamatory op-ed in the local newspaper, you can’t let it stand without comment, whether it’s via a letter to the editor or an op-ed in response.
Meantime, you’ve got to go about your regular business like nothing has happened. Promote your usual things and don’t even mention your ongoing problems. You do have to be careful to not flood the media with too many feel-good stories because reporters and editors will figure you’re just trying to paper over your problems — and cover less of them than they might normally.
Above all, patience is required. The process is slow and frustrating — and the possibility of setbacks is high. But what’s done is done and the only way to get the public opinion about your utility to improve is with an ongoing trail of positive news.