About two minutes into the second half of the Super Bowl on Sunday, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome plunged into darkness and CBS cut to commercial. When the lights returned and broadcast resumed almost twenty minutes later, reporters and commentators stumbled through a retelling of events.
One thing was crystal clear amidst all of the obscurity – no one really knew what had just happened.
About 30 minutes after the power outage, a quick Googling of the phrase “blame for power outage at Super Bowl” yielded over 1.69 million results. Already, Entergy New Orleans – the power supply company for the Superdome – was denying to some investigative reporters any responsibility for the outage. Dome officials, however, were quick to rebuff the blame.
Today, PR Daily reported that officials dropped the ball on crisis management during the outage. It was unclear how long the delay would last, and it took several minutes before TV anchors could even say if the power would be fully restored. It wasn’t until midnight that a statement was released and blasted through PR Newswire, Facebook and Twitter – which seems to be the biggest blunder of all.
Though it is hard to believe that the power would not have returned to the dome at all last night, it is harder to believe that Entergy did not utilize social media as a major part of its crisis communication plan. The Daily Beast reported today that the third-most Tweeted about topic last night was the power outage. So why was Entergy’s absent from the conversation?
Two standard strategic principles to crisis management are the Principle of Existing Relations and the Principle of Quick Response: keep the public informed and do it ASAP.
Maybe Entergy didn’t believe the issue warranted quick responses? That is hard to believe during one of the most watched television events of the year.
Maybe they thought the issue would blow over and didn’t need social media out in full force? The same Daily Beast article did also report Beyonce’s halftime show trumped the power outage for “Tweets” per minute. Even Beyonce’s lip-syncing fiasco at President Obama’s second inauguration was the source of more news stories immediately following the incident.
Maybe the crisis would have been more disastrous had the Ravens’ lost their momentum, lead, and ultimately, Super Bowl win? It’s hard to say. Although that seems to often be the case in crisis management, no matter how solid your response plan.
The only thing to do now is monitor the public blow back and talk about our favorite Super Bowl commercials while we wait (mine was Tide’s “Miracle Stain“).