Centerpoint Energy Public Relations Screws The Pooch. A contract employee for Centerpoint Energy was taped hitting two family dogs with pipe wrench. He claimed the owner sent the dogs after him as he was there to cut off their gas. You can watch the video and decide for yourself which story seems more plausible.
Granted there is little coming back from video of an employee attacking two family pets with a wrench. The company’s response? Centerpoint showed almost as much courage as their worker did by not doing anything to remake their reputation with their customers, shareholders, the national news media or any other stakeholder group. It was the grand slam of doing nothing. If there were awards for inaction, Centerpoint would win. And its worth remembering that here in Texas, power companies compete. How many dog lovers will want to switch their service to Centerpoint after this? The answer is zero, in case you were wondering.
And what about the other Centerpoint employees who still have to go into people’s yards? How welcome will they be? It’s difficult to imagine a conference room full of college educated adults sitting around and actively choosing not to do anything. Actively deciding that our side of things will go untold. Deciding that they are powerless to remediate a nasty negative, never bothering to consider that life’s lemons can be turned to lemonade. I guess it was too much work, or the ‘smart’ people who worked there really do not know how to do anything, or maybe they are ridiculously unqualified to work in public relations. There are plenty of public relations departments that are full of H.R. refugees who need a place to sit until it’s time to retire or die. I don’t know if that is the case at Centerpoint, but these amateurs are getting the public beat down they deserve, instead of the dog this time.
So, with the well-deserved criticism, here is what they should have done and still could but probably won’t.
Here is what the public relations people at Counterpoint did wrong:
- Never acknowledged the injury to the pet dogs. In the litigious age we all live in no one will ever apologize. But what would have been so wrong with offering to pay for the veterinary bills their customers now must because of their employee freely swinging a wrench and making contact?
- No public statement about this incident is on the company’s web site. The best way to make sure your side of the story never gets told is not tell it.
- “CenterPoint Energy did not return a call for additional information from Breitbart Texas.” Unreturned phone calls to national media mean that the lines in the story where Centerpoint could have told their side of things were used by someone else with a less favorable view of the company. Fail.
- Fire the asshole that did this. I mean, come on. Those dogs look about as dangerous as they actually were which was not at all. Even the mailman has mace for situations where they are actually attacked. This dick attacked the dogs, they were no threat to him.
- Announce renewed training for all contract employees to make sure this never happens again. At least this sends some kind of message that the company takes this seriously and does not want a repeat.
- Reviewing their procedures? Really? What kind of non-answer is that? Is there a ‘hit dogs with tools’ policy at Centerpoint that needs reviewing? I call bullshit.
When other public relations practitioners lament the reputation of the profession, I point to this and other incidents like this where someone had the ability to make something right, but did not. Unfortunately for p.r. people we get the reputation we deserve. So do sissy workers who are scared of the family dog.