Issues & crisis management : SSE

Arran and Kintyre Storm

In March 2013, an extreme weather front converged on the Scottish islands of Arran and Kintyre, leaving 20,000 SSE customers without power. Three-metre-high snow drifts, heavy ice on the power lines and blocked roads created extremely challenging conditions for SSE engineers trying to restore power.

Almost immediately, film crews from the BBC, ITV, STV and Sky News arrived on Arran to look for signs SSE was taking too long to fix the problem.

Against the odds SSE managed to turn a very negative situation into a positive. Its response was a textbook example of effective crisis comms. It was quick, sending teams to affected areas to get messages through. It was proactive, using social media and its website to post pictures and videos of its engineers working in treacherous conditions to restore power.

But above all, its approach was honest. It did not try to spin the story or artificially reduce the number of customers without power. It kept the media and stakeholders informed immediately of any setback. That  approach was welcomed.

The story was top of the news agenda for almost a week and coverage was predominately sympathetic. The videos were shared extensively, politicians thanked SSE on Twitter and, more importantly, the community remained supportive – Visit Arran arranged 150 hampers to say thank you, with associated media coverage.

"The standout entry. The passion and commitment of SSE to look after its constituents came through loud and clear. Importantly, the honesty and integrity of the no-frills comms was powerful"

Nigel Prideaux Group director of comms, Aviva

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