Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Gillette Stadium, & Social Media...a Great Story

Hurricane Irene….another big topic for social media.  As the latest hurricane swept up the east coast of the United States last week, millions of storm victims stayed in touch by using the various forms of social media.

Twitter was feeding the local news casts with up to the minute local events like downed trees, power outages, flooding rivers, and more.  Fox 25 Boston spent a good portion of their storm coverage simply reading their “tweets” directly from the web. 
Facebook users were also heavily engaged.  My small following of Facebook “friends” were busy posting news about trees down in their yards, tales of sad children with no power to watch TV or play video games (remember those days?), etc.  Those without power were typing away on their smartphones and iPads.
In the days following the storm, Twitter and Facebook were used extensively to criticize the power companies for the perceived lack of attention to the power outages.  Whether true or not, residents of the Boston suburb of Foxboro were particularly harsh in their opinions of Gillette Stadium getting power restored in time for the New England Patriots’ Thursday night home game against the NY Giants while the majority of the town remained without electricity.  The Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, and his staff reacted to the story swiftly, explaining that the home of the Patriots actually ran off a sub-station in the nearby town of Wrentham and that the Patriots had paid a substantial sum to the local power company in 1996, National Grid, to have upgrades done to the substation in case of an outage.  According to James Nolan, senior vice president of operations, administration and finance for the stadium and the Patriots, ''This would guarantee that we would still have power if the feed was lost from one of the substations,'' he said.
Mr. Kraft also reminded people that the New England Patriots and his other business interests had donated the use of their privately owned backup generators to the town to help provide emergency power for key locations in Foxboro.
This story is a great example of how monitoring and reacting to social media feeds can have a dramatic impact on a business brand.  While the Patriots were initially subject to criticism because of perceived favoritism by National Grid, they did a great job of turning it around by explaining to the public they had not only funded the improvements to the substation, but that they also had donated their own private generators to the town.  What could have been a publicity nightmare was handled swiftly and professionally due to the presence of a social media monitoring and engagement program.
IMO, I think the Patriots should be commended on their handling of this potentially damaging publicity, and their quick actions of presenting their side of the story.  As more and more people are exposed to social media, the need of monitoring will continue to grow exponentially.
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  1. Great post, Dave. Nice to see the great city of Boston rally. Twitter and social media has completely changed the way we communicate, live and how businesses operate.

  2. Thanks @eyelona. It really is nice to see how effective a well-planned social media program can be. The initial reaction by many of the residents was resentment because they felt the Patriots got special attention from National Grid. Once the Patriots PR staff got involved and explained their financial investment in upgrading the substation in 1996 to provide backup and the fact that they donated their private generators to the town to help power traffic lights and other emergency needs, the sentiment became a positive for the organization. I can only imagine how it would have turned out if they weren’t actively monitoring the brand and let the initial reaction stay with the general public. There was a lot of devastation from Irene up and down the east coast. This is only one of the many good stories that came from it.