Duke Energy and Duke basketball had a bad March. Duke basketball probably will come back sooner than Duke Energy.
Duke Energy knows it has a problem. The utility took out full-page newspaper ads Sunday – the classic corporate PR response.
It was a waste of money.
A paid ad persuades no one when the front pages are dominated by one story after another about the Dan River spill, the resulting environmental damage and the Duke-DENR relationship.
One sentence in Duke’s ad betrayed the company’s dilemma: “Each ash basin site is unique and will require complex measures that will take time.”
“Take time.” In other words, Duke is going to be on the hot seat for a long time. So is Governor McCrory, a 29-year Duke employee, no matter how hard he tries now to distance himself.
The best PR strategy for Duke in today’s skeptical, social-media world isn’t a letter from the CEO. It’s for the CEO to hold an in-depth session with reporters where she answers every question, no holds barred. That’s what GM’s CEO did to respond to the auto-maker’s recall debacle.
People know that mistakes happen. They need to know why this happened and what Duke is going to do now.
They don’t want a CYA letter signed by a faceless executive. They want to see and hear a real person. They want someone to take responsibility for what went wrong – and responsibility for making it right.