There was a time—not so long ago, in fact—when the only way people in the middle of a power outage could get news was through the radio. But the advent of smartphones has provided an entirely new avenue, one that communicators at Alabama Power put to use late last month as tornadoes ripped through the state.
“Smartphone connectivity was much better than you’d expect,” says Ike Pigott, a spokesman for the utility and manager of its Twitter account.
As the storms raged on, and in the days following, as the company rushed to restore power to 412,229 customers, Pigott and his team tweeted away, but with caution.
“We tried to be very careful about not making promises about specific days or specific times of recovery,” he says. “In many cases, we didn’t know how bad it was until we were right there looking at it.”
The response to the Twitter effort was huge. Alabama Power added 1,335 followers looking for information about the storm and the cleanup. The utility’s response to the crisis has given it a roadmap for future crisis communications, as well as how it might handle customer service.