Tag Archives: ITC

Franco looks back at the 2003 Blackout in Detroit

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 Blackout that caused 50 million people across eight states and part of Canada to lose power. Here at Franco Public Relations Group, the significance of this date got us thinking about where we were at that time ­- and how far our power grid has come since then. Not only did the blackout affect all of us personally, Franco played a key role in communicating the cause of the blackout through our work with our client, ITCTransmission.

A picture of the U.S. taken by satellite shows what the Blackout of 2003 looked like from space. The circled area is the region effected by the Blackout of 2003.

At the time of the blackout, ITC was emerging as the nation’s first independent electric transmission provider. Moments after the lights went out, Franco sprung into action. As ITC researched the cause of the blackout, Franco worked around the clock developing a communications plan and reaching out to local and national media, as well as state and federal regulators.

As the first company to provide an accurate account of how the blackout began, ITC’s research has played a vital role in developing regulations for utilities that have helped increase the reliability of the grid and prevent future blackouts from occurring. In the past 10 years, ITC has made significant investments within its footprint to improve the technology and infrastructure of the grid. Its transmission lines are among the most reliable in the United States, consistently performing in the top decile.

Even without power, metro Detroiters came together as a community in ways they never had before. Our Franco staff members took a look back at those days in August 2003 to reflect on how the event shaped where they were and how far we’ve come:

  • I was working with the Walter P. Chrysler Museum 10 years ago and getting ready for an auto enthusiast event.  It was way too coincidental that just as I was plugging equipment into the exterior outlet on the Museum’s back patio, everything went dead inside the Museum. A co-worker ran down, demanding to know what I had done.  I was speechless until we realized the full extent of the blackout. But, nothing keeps a PR person – or auto enthusiast – down.  We shifted our now acoustic program to the front lawn in time to welcome a steady stream of cruisers that pulled into our parking lot. –Pat Adanti-Joy, vice president


  • The business owners in downtown Ferndale really taught me something memorable about the importance of community. The convenience store kept its doors opened and, without use of a cash register, accepted personal checks to sell goods like bottled water to those in need – like me. The local coffee shop offered free coffee and friendly conversation as many visitors had no access to cash without the use of ATMs.As a journalist at the time, I found feel-good stories human interest in abundance. Looking back those business owners understood all it takes to keep moving forward, and keeping customers in good standing, no matter what the circumstances may be. I have always remembered and appreciated their goodwill and it informs the way I advise my consumer clients even today.  – Stephanie Angelyn Casola, account manager


  • Ever since I can remember, my dad has preached the practice of always having gas in your car. Years before I could even drive, I remember him going on about it. The Blackout of 2003 was proof that you never know what’s going to happen. Working in public relations, this couldn’t be more true. You never know when the phone will ring and you’ll need to leave immediately because of a client crisis. These are the moments that mean the most, so always be prepared and don’t forget, always have gas in your car! – Cayce Karpinski, assistant account executive


  • On August 14, 2003, I was working as an assistant manager at Panera Bread when the blackout happened. Since the power knocked everything out, including registers, we decided to give our customers a free pastry from the bake shop. This was my first experience in community relations. Little did I know that 10 years later, I would be doing this as my full-time career. I enjoy working with clients such as The Salvation Army, helping feed and shelter people on a daily basis. Can you say, “fate?” – Andrea Kenski, account executive


  • My parents were fortunate enough to own a generator so we were one of very few families who had some source of electricity at our house. I recall running extension cords to two of our neighbors’ houses to keep their refrigerators running. People we had never met before stopped by to ask if we would allow them to charge their cell phones. In total, it was a nice experience to get to know our community better and building neighborly bonds. – Richard Kuhn, public relations coordinator


  • As the sales representative began to swipe my mother’s credit card, all the lights went out in the Marshall Fields at the Westland Shopping Center.  My 17-year-old sister began to panic as thoughts of losing her dream Homecoming dress filled her mind. Luckily, the kind sales representative was able to put her gown on hold, and we later picked it up when the power was up-and-running.  I didn’t realize it then, but 14-year-old me had just witnessed excellence in customer service and community relations – a quality that would become the core of my professional career. – Marie Stawasz, assistant account executive


  • At the time, I was a communications major at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. During the summer, I worked for the admissions office as an orientation leader for incoming students. I realized that traffic was backing up on Evergreen Road because traffic signals were out. Then, I heard the news on the radio. Fortunately, the outage happened at the end of orientation and all of the incoming students had completed their online registration for classes. The impact to me was minimal. It took me over an hour to get home, which was only 15 miles away. I was lucky to receive power back at home in less than 24 hours. – Tim Trunzo, senior account executive

Stephanie Casola and Dan Horn contributed to this entry. Casola is an account manager. Horn is an assistant account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can contact them at casola@franco.com or horn@franco.com.


Joe Ferlito’s series of unusual PR experiences: Part 5

Are you hearing what I’m hearing?

“We listen to our clients, understand their needs and create communications programs that support their business goals.” – Franco’s vision.

Listening is something we consciously do. However, hearing or perceiving sound, is another matter. A recent unusual PR experience tested our hearing and led to a great team-building exercise.

I helped a client produce an educational webcast. Despite several rounds of testing, we encountered a high-pitch audio feedback during portions of the live webcast. The weird thing was, only some of us could hear it.

We troubleshot the issue and eventually solved the problem, but we were confused why the sound was only audible to some – until we realized that the frequency range of human hearing varies with age. The people who could hear the feedback were younger than those who could not.

As a millennial, I naturally turned to my smart phone for an app to test the theory. I downloaded the “Age of Ears” app for iPhone and the theory held true. The people who couldn’t hear the feedback had a lower threshold of audio frequency.

After client projects, the Franco team gets together to discuss best practices. While discussing the webcast I explained how age impacts hearing. Nobody believed me.

So I pulled out the app and proceeded with a spontaneous team-building exercise. I explained that the app will play a sound that gets progressively higher pitched and asked everyone to raise their hand when they could no longer hear the sound.

Hands began flying up, oldest to youngest; jaws dropping in disbelief along the way.

Some people can hear higher pitched sounds than others. Generally speaking, younger ears can hear a broader range of sound than those that are older. Image courtesy of Mihut84.

Still don’t believe me? Try it yourself with a few friends or colleagues and share the results in our comments section.

We all learned something that day at Franco and it turned into a fun team-building exercise that I’ll never forget.

Joe Ferlito is an account manager at Franco Public Relations Group. You can reach him at (313) 567-5031 or ferlito@franco.com.