The Avista Blog celebrates one year in the blogosphere    

Tags: Avista Utilities, Answering Questions

One birthday candle for our Blog's first year!
One birthday candle for the Avista Blog's first year!
Post by Dan Kolbet

Just about a year ago, Avista launched this blog. To be quite honest, I wasn’t certain we’d survive for more than six months or so. It wasn’t that I questioned our commitment, only that we’d never done it before – in fact very few utilities actually had a blog (and most still don’t). The idea of a blog was a foreign concept for the company, but also for customers. We’d never tried to have conversations with you in such a public way before – and we didn’t know how you’d all react.

It’s pretty clear on our one-year anniversary (or birthday if you will), that we’ve been successful. My criteria for this judgment is both anecdotal and factual. First off, this blog gets a few thousand hits each month, so I know it’s being read. Secondly, through e-mails, Twitter messages and discussion forum links, customers and other stakeholders are talking with us about the topics we’re writing about.

I often get asked about how many comments we receive on the blog. Not that many, but that’s not discouraging to me. While comments aren’t jamming my inbox – e-mails to certainly are. Since June of last year, we’ve noted more than 900 individual e-mail conversations alone. We’ve made a commitment to personally respond to every customer who e-mails us. That surprises some people, who assume replies to our e-mail blasts go into a black hole. I like these interactions because people are plainspoken and honest – honest about their surprise that a large company such as ours would take the time to respond to their comments. We’ll continue to respond to your e-mails as long as you keep sending them.

Watch a video about Avista and social media
Watch a video about Avista and social media.
Avista's social media work has recieved regional and national attention.
Avista's social media work - especially on
discussion forums, has recieved regional and
national attention.
Since the blog is the centerpiece of our social media work, there are some ancillary pieces that keep us going. Avista has two Twitter accounts that keep track of the 140-character world out there. The @AvistaCares account is run by my co-worker and friend Jessie Wuerst, who focuses on those in need and talking about the communities we serve. My account @Dan_at_Avista helps promote the blog and interactions with customers. It’s also about my personal life and working at Avista. Never did I think 18 months ago, that Twitter would become a valuable tool for communications. It’s an early-warning system for outages and topics just bubbling to the surface. It’s also nice because it keeps each of us succinct in our tweets – poor grammar and abbreviations included. 

Another area that has drawn regional and even national attention is our participation in discussion forums, such as the comments section on local news outlets or blogs. Jumping into those discussions has been a challenge for me, given their immediacy for 24-hour-a-day responses, passionate participants and the fact that I’m often the ‘new kid’ in well-established online communities. But simply talking about the issues impacting Avista customers and providing answers when asked hasn’t been a challenge at all. It’s just a new place to talk about our company and customers, and provide direction when someone needs more information.
In our first post on June 1, 2009, I wrote this, “We hope that the blog will be a place where you can come and learn more about Avista, our actions and vision for today and the future. But it’s not all about us. We wouldn’t exist without you, and we know it. This blog will feature your stories, questions and opinions. And yes, you can disagree with us – that’s OK.

We also hope that this conversation will allow us to better respond to your concerns, while giving you an inside look into our company. Transparency is a good thing.”

Those statements are still true a year later. As I look at what’s ahead for the next year, I’m excited to continue this conversation and further integrate guest bloggers, opinions, podcasts, videos – and you. Our Conversation pages are getting a facelift very soon and I hope you’ll like the changes and join in on the discussions.

I’m just an Avista employee, like everyone else here, but I have the privilege of representing Avista online and talking to you all through each post, tweet, e-mail or comment. I know these same types of conversations are happening in person everyday with my co-workers throughout our service territory and that makes me proud. So, on behalf of every Avista employee, thank you for visiting our site, reading the blog and having conversations with us over the past year – we’re glad you did. 
Posted by  System Account  on  6/10/2010
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Tina B  commented on  Wednesday, June 23, 2010  8:27 PM 
Great job, Dan. This is my first chance to check out the blog. I'm impressed. I plan to follow you on twitter, too. I enjoyed your presentation at the NW Energy Conference in Portland a few weeks back and you were very gracious to hang around and talk after the meeting. Thanks.

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