UMEME STRIKES BACK WITH A #TEAPARTYUG
Embattled Ugandan electricity distributor UMEME, under harsh criticism in recent weeks for the massive powercuts across the country, often lasting 24 hours at a go and more, has changed tack and in a new strategy is now attempting to engage with Kampalas leading social media gurus and opinion leaders, by organizing a Twitter TweetMeet, hashtagged as #TeaPartyUG.
Held at the Sheraton Kampalas Lion Centre the media blitz was clearly masterminded by PR movers and shakers Simon Kaheru and the recently returned Henry Rugamba, whose past experience as Corporate Communications Director at British American Tobacco (Uganda) came in handy, when dealing with a hostile environment.
Major breakdowns, in some quarters interpreted as sabotaged equipment, also led to lengthy repairs and outages in parts of the city, with the mood decisively turning against UMEME, though it is of course clear that they can only distribute what they get from the power producers. Technical problems on the network apart, the top executives and senior staff present at the #TeaPartyUG were well prepared and could answer most questions to the satisfaction of the tweeps and media representatives present, making it abundantly clear that electricity production was reduced for reasons well beyond their own control, as well as the control of the independent power producers, over the lack of timely and contractually agreed payments by government, to keep operations going. Wide screens showed ongoing Twitter feeds which alternated with statistics on power production, distribution, peak and off peak demands, billings and collections while the Q&A session soon moved on to individual problems encountered and narrated by those present.
Overall this first was clearly a successful media and charm offensive, including both the conventional media houses and also the increasingly ever more powerful and certainly often noisy social media where opinion leaders had in past weeks created their own hash tag campaigns, copied then across the region as in Kenya and Tanzania similar problems exist and persist.
Umeme is now also visible on Twitter, Facebook and even Google+, where they are incidentally following this correspondent on all three, monitoring my every move and output I said to their staff tongue in cheek, to be able to counteract and respond, all taken though in good humour. These responses and exchanges take place presently during office hours only but is soon to expand for on a full 24 / 7 basis, which is the ONLY way to successfully engage through the new social media outlets.
Happy Holiday Season then with less power outages? Time will tell and you can read it all through my Twitter feed via @whthome or my crossloaded feed to Facebook, on LinkedIn and even to my Blog.