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Hydro Ottawa puts customer engagement at centre of social media outreach

Drone photography, live video places residents in the boots of utility workers

On Jan. 3, Ottawa was hit with its first major winter storm of the new year. The region was blanketed by several hours of freezing rain and snow, causing tree branches to topple onto power lines and plunging thousands of residents into the dark.

As it has done countless times over the decades, Hydro Ottawa dispatched teams of workers to restore power to customers. But, as is increasingly the case at the local utility, a crew of communications experts also sprung into action to demystify the power restoration process. Over the next 11 hours, Hydro Ottawa published social media posts and live-streamed videos showing the efforts that go into restoring electricity.

It’s part of a wider effort by Hydro Ottawa to meet its customers’ need for real-time information and details about current events.

“With each new video, we learn more about our customers and the type of information they find helpful – critical to tailoring our efforts,” says Dan Seguin, Hydro Ottawa’s Manager of Media and Public Affairs. “At a time when customers are increasingly informed and enabled, their expectations for immediate account updates, high-quality, personalized products and services are growing.”

Hydro Ottawa’s digital customer engagement programs enable it to reach a much larger audience in more compelling ways than traditional methods such as paper mailouts.

It’s also a way of providing accurate and time-sensitive information on important issues such as the impact of this year’s spring flooding.

There was a considerable amount of misinformation being circulated about how the high water levels were affecting Hydro Ottawa’s operations. Using videos and social media, the local utility was able to set the record straight and explain what was happening on the Ottawa River.

With more than 200,000 views, its dramatic videos were also able to satiate the curiosity of local residents by showing them the raging waters. This assisted emergency workers, who issued several pleas to residents to stay away from flood-affected areas.

Footage of Hydro Ottawa’s facilities during the flood built on several previous videos of Chaudière Falls, which offered inside views of the utility’s unfamiliar world and gave Ottawa residents a rare glimpse into a massive piece of power-generating infrastructure as well as a better understanding of how Hydro Ottawa operates.

Some two years into its new social media strategy, Hydro Ottawa continues to refine its content as it gathers more analytics data and gains an even richer understanding of what its audience wants.

Video offers particularly rich insights as it allows Hydro Ottawa to learn what information is useful and valuable to its customers.