EEC Perspectives

“Holy Kilowatts, Batman!” So What’s Your Story?

Credit: John Egan

Have you ever left an energy conference and run into a life-sized Pikachu Pokémon©? How about coming face to face with a Star Wars stormtrooper©?

I recently encountered those and many other colorful characters, most of whom I didn’t recognize, when the energy conference I was attending, HydroVision International, was ending while Denver Comic Con was starting.

Credit: John Egan

Both events shared the same space, in the Colorado Convention Center, for a few hours on a recent Friday morning.

The co-location of those two very different events helped explain the 150% increase in parking I had to pay for that one day—from $12 per day to $30 per day. Apparently, Batman© needed the space to park his Batmobile©.

Talk about two really different ships passing in the night: 3,000 hydroelectric experts were exiting the convention enter while roughly 115,000 comic-book character aficionados were starting to stream into it. Each member of each community was immersed deeply in their own world. Each a bit insular, even quirky.

Credit: John Egan

As I took in the performance art that was Comic Con, I realized our industry’s stories aren’t quite as colorful as the Batman creation myth, or the back stories that inform the Riddler©, Penguin© or Mad Hatter©, villains Batman and Robin© opposed on a weekly basis in the campy 1960s TV show (right). So be it. That just means we have to try harder.

Part of the title of this post came from Robin’s fevered expressions whenever he or Batman were threatened by the vile villains in Gotham City. In fact, there’s a website that catalogs all 368 of Robin’s “Holy ….!” exclamations from the “Batman” TV series. You can’t make this stuff up!

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Utility Communications: Don’t Overlook (Or Shoot!) The Messenger

When I write or speak about utility communications, I tend to focus on the “message” part of the communications process, i.e., which words should be used and which ones should be avoided in order to achieve a desired result. Like this post. And this post. Last month, when I spoke at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference, I focused on messengers, and I learned a lot.

I started my talk by reducing the communications process to its most elemental pieces, “message” and “messenger.” At a high level, everything about communications fits into one of those bins. Like the two interdependent pieces of the yin yang symbol (above),“message” and “messenger” fit together to form a whole. They can’t exist on their own. They gain strength from the other.

Think about it. A bad message can’t be effective regardless of the delivery system you select. And a bad message-delivery system will undermine even the best message.

Credit: Toby Sellier

In speaking to the APPA audience, my co-panelists and I focused on the messenger, specifically how utility retirees, employees and members of the community could be effective messengers for points a utility may want to make. The degree to which these messengers would succeed depended on their credibility and the quality or believability of the message.

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Another Copper Bullet in the War Against Utility Scams

Credit: iStock/almagani

Did you participate in Facebook’s recent “10 concerts” meme? You know the one — Facebook users were invited to list nine concerts they actually attended and one they didn’t. Their FB friends were asked to guess which one was not, in fact, attended by that person. The meme swept through FB-land like wildfire, drawing millions of responses in a matter of days.

For my Facebook friends that participated in that meme (one person I know listed 50 concerts he had gone to in his life), I learned a lot about their musical tastes. Scammers may have too. If the password to your email, bank account or credit card is some variant of “Pink Floyd” or “Brad Paisley,” you may soon be the victim of a scam.

Credit: iStock/ridofranze

Hopefully you were not a victim of the “Can you hear me?” phone-based scam, which started making the rounds in early 2017. This is the one where you receive a call and the caller starts by asking, “Can you hear me?” When unsuspecting victims answered “yes,” they exposed themselves to all sorts of trouble in their digital and financial world.

More recently, we have the WannaCry ransomware scam, which affected tens of thousands of computers in over 100 countries. Hopefully you were not hit with this.

Just last month, word got out about the newest cyberattack, where hackers were able to embed malware directly into social media posts. “While corporations and government agencies around the world are training their staff to think twice before opening anything sent by email, hackers have already moved on to a new kind of attack, targeting social media accounts, where people are more likely to be trusting,” The New York Times reported.

Great, next the scammers will find a way to get directly inside the fillings in my teeth.

Cyber attacks and scams work because scammers are masters of social engineering, the art of taking bits of information someone provides and using it against them. It’s not that the victims are dumb, it’s that the scammers are playing on another level.

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