Sandy shows utilities importance of social in crisis communications

PAN Media

This post is courtesy of Chris Daniels and was originally posted on
November 09, 2012
The value of social media in crisis communications was reinforced in the past two weeks to organizations on the front lines of Hurricane Sandy, many of which saw the number of their Facebook fans and Twitter followers increase by the thousands.

The reason: many consumers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut relied on mobile and tablet devices to receive important information during the Hurricane and its aftermath.

Before Sandy approached the East Coast, Con Edison had about 1,000 Twitter followers; now the utility company has more than 22,000. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city's subways, buses, tunnels, and bridges, nearly tripled its audience on Twitter from 26,000 to more than 75,000 in the days after the storm.

“The lesson so far is that putting out a lot of information as soon as you get it and being accessible really pays off,” says Adam Lisberg, director of external communications at the MTA. “By being good, it helps you look good as a consequence.”

In addition to providing updates on train service, the MTA also posted images to help frustrated commuters understand the extent of the damage and what the organization was doing.

“The L train in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn was one of the last to be restored, and residents and representatives of the neighborhood were complaining, ‘Where's our L train?'” says Lisberg.

Since it was not safe to bring the media into the tunnels, “we sent our [track-certified] photographer and video guy down into the tube to come back with images showing the extent of the damage, how many crews were working on it, and the ‘pump trains' still pumping water out,” he says. “Through every available channel, we explained where we were with the situation, what we're doing, what we've seen – and then said, ‘Here is proof that we're working as hard as we can.'

“I think that went a long way to establishing our credibility,” Lisberg adds.

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