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PSE&G Championed Social Media As A Critical Communications Tool In Testimony Before Congress

NEWARK, N.J., June 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- PSE&G today shared with members of Congress its view that social media is a critical communications tool, particularly in times of crises. The utility, New Jersey's largest, detailed for the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications its use of Twitter during Superstorm Sandy and discussed the potential for using technology and social networks to better facilitate information exchanges between the public and private sectors. 

(Logo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120830/MM62627LOGO)

"The changing weather patterns and an increased dependence on electricity require us to rethink the use of communications technology throughout our operations," said Jorge Cardenas, PSE&G's vice president of asset management. "Sandy reminded us how important it is to continue to improve our ability to communicate in an increasingly connected and cyber-savvy world."

Cardenas told the subcommittee's members that PSE&G's Twitter following quadrupled during the 17-day storm event, as it found a community that was clamoring for information and recognition.  PSE&G sent out more than 9,000 messages- more than 500 a day, while 90,000 messages were directed the company.

"We are now more convinced than ever about the power and importance of social media—especially in times of emergency," Cardenas said. "We continue to build and engage our online communities with the understanding that 'blue sky days' are different than those marked by crises, and social media and mobile technology are an increasingly important part our communications strategy."

He also shared these lessons learned:

  1. Mobile technology is a game changer. More than half of Americans have a smart phone, and more and more people, in almost every age demographic, are active on social media.
  2. People have an increasing and insatiable need to be connected. Even more so in times of emergency.  They want to be heard, to be validated, to help and to influence.
  3. The number of people on social media spikes in times of disaster. People flock to Twitter and Facebook because they are searching for immediate information that they can't get via traditional broadcast channels.
  4. Engaging influencers is critical. It's just as important to grow the influence of your online community as it is to grow the size.  Connecting with people who have credibility in their local communities is critical to an organization's ability to spread its message.
  5. The public respects and rewards consistent, transparent interaction and cooperation between the private sector and community leaders.  Using your social media networks to amplify messages from municipal and state officials, police departments, Offices of Emergency Management and social service agencies can help grow your audience and get valuable information out to those who need it while its needed.
  6. Tone matters. People respect a social media effort that is continuously empathetic, authentic and helpful.
  7. Public notes of appreciation matter too, especially to the fiercely proud people who work in the utility industry. We regard ourselves as first responders, and supportive messages can go a long way with a weary employee base in need of a boost.

Cardenas also outlined steps the company is taking from the lessons to better serve customers during extreme events. Several of the advances were done at the behest of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities which has challenged utilities to improve communications with public officials and customers.

The company is developing web pages for each of the municipalities its serves, which will provide localized information including an estimated time of restoration for specific geographic areas. Web content is being optimized for smart phones and texting capabilities are being enhanced, so customers can report their outages via text and get updates as progress is made on restoring their service.

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