LIPA lacks PR Power

LIPA Crew at work (Photo credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

Ten days after the worst storm to hit Long Island NY in living memory, thousands of homes there are STILL without power. The local power company LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) has come in for considerable criticism. And while it’s far from here, their crisis PR is a lesson in how not to do it. This ‘dis-missive’ from the LIPA Hurricane Sandy Storm Center yesterday is a good example – (my bolding):

As of noon today, we have restored power to over 750,000 customers on Long Island who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Approximately 190,000 remain without power; this figure excludes many of the customers in the hardest hit areas not yet able to receive electric power. By end of day, Wednesday November 7th, we expect to restore power to 90% of all customers whose homes and businesses are safe to accept power. Additionally, those customers in and around the most severely damaged areas of Brookville, St. James and Port Jefferson should expect to be restored in up to another week or more.

“Excludes!” LIPA fails to appreciate that Newspapers and TV are interested in the people’s suffering and who’s to blame. By excluding stats about the hardest hit communities (many thousands of homes, without heat, light, cell phones or Internet since Oct 30th – some now receiving care packages) LIPA put themselves at the mercy of the media, rather than leading the story. And to write should expect to be restored in up to another week or more, is sackable. People know the magnitude of the problem, but they need to know LIPA’s commitment to relieving their misery. If LIPA cannot utilise the media to provide information, reassurance and hope, they must expect NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, to complain about them, as he did on Tuesday, again. “Simply put”, said Cuomo, “I am not satisfied with their performance.” And nor is anybody else.

About JS

John Stonborough specialises in media relations, providing an authoritative and discreet media management service to corporate and private clients world-wide. He also broadcasts, lectures and writes about handling the hostile media and media regulation. He is known for observing "An interview is no time for an original thought." He is the great-nephew of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His working career began as a London policeman and then as a reporter for the Daily Mail, BBC Radio 4, Thames Television and Channel 4 TV. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He is married and lives in London, England. www.stonborough.com
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