PG&E Recovers From Near-Fumble at Candlestick

A sellout crowd of nearly 70,000 found themselves sitting in darkness, twice, while a national TV audience stared at a blank screen during the Dec. 19 Monday Night Football game at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. The two blackouts thrust PG&E, the stadium's power supplier, onto an unwelcome national stage, but the company was quick to react, taking to social media channels to spread information.

The stadium's power first cut out 25 minutes before kickoff, and the second blackout came early in the second quarter and halted the game again for about 15 minutes. Across the nation, TV screens went blank as ESPN’s 32 cameras powered down, reports the San Francisco Chronicle

On its Facebook page, PG&E quickly posted, "Candlestick Outage: We are actively investigating the cause, and in cases like this it could be a number of things—from equipment owned by PG&E or equipment owned by the customer (which is Candlestick Park). Thanks to the fans in attendance and watching at home for your patience, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience." 

It wasn't long before positive comments poured in: "Good job letting us know what's going on! Thanks," and "Thanks PG&E! You're awesome," were typical responses.  

Joe Molica, a spokesman for PG&E, told the Associated Press after the game, "So far I don't know what the cause is. We do know that Candlestick was the only customer affected by this outage." 

Considering how many PG&E customers actually were affected—whether they were were at the game or watching it on TV—perhaps Molica should have said that Candlestick Park was the only facility impacted by the outages. 

When Molica's statement was re-posted on the PG&E Twitter account, many were quick to point out that Candlestick was not an average customer. PG&E soon amended Molica's statement: "#Candlestick Outage: Many of you made the fair point that #Candlestick is the only facility (not customer) affected." 

While PG&E successfully got out in front of a national story, it goes to show that just one ill-considered word can trip up even the best crisis response.