“Behind every success is a human story”: FortisBC’s Michelle Petrusevich on their Gold Quill winning public safety campaign

Back to Blogs Posted: January 29, 2023

Michelle Petrusevich and her colleagues at FortisBC had a serious mission: inform the public about the dangers of disturbing buried utility lines, including gas lines. In 2021, with more homeowners undertaking renovations and DIY projects thanks to the pandemic, their work had a special urgency. 

With creativity and collaboration across FortisBC and partner organizations, the team succeeded in contributing to a decrease in damaged infrastructure. Their work was honoured with a 2022 IABC Gold Quill Award of Merit.

To get a taste of the campaign, check out this blog post aimed at residential home owners and this one aimed a contractors. 

Michelle shared some thoughts on how the project succeeded and what it means to her team to be recognized with a Gold Quill. 

FortisBC team members with their Gold Quill: Michelle Petrusevich, Tammy Lyon, Jimmy Yip, and Tanya Kowalenko

What was the goal of the FortisBC Public Safety Campaign 2021? What problem was it designed to solve?

The goal of the campaign in 2021 was not dissimilar to the years previous: keeping the public safe from dangers associated with ground disturbance. Since the program’s inception over a decade ago, injuries have been very rare when the public undertakes any ground disturbances– a mere handful of injuries amongst hundreds of thousands of digging activities. However, one incident is too many, and it has been the goal to reduce damage to infrastructure to as close to zero as possible.

The year 2021 was unique in many ways, and the circumstances around ground disturbance were not spared. Firstly, through FortisBC’s proactive approach, the team learned that homeowners, as compared to hired professionals and contractors, were becoming responsible for a higher share of damaged infrastructure than in previous years. And secondly, the opportunities for that damage were increasing with more people staying home and undertaking home renovations, due to travel and other pandemic-related restrictions.

As always, the FortisBC team kept itself agile to the changes in the landscape. It continued to strive towards the zero-strike goal, regardless of the nuanced challenges.

What made this project special? Why did you decide to submit it for an award?

FortisBC is proud to have received a Gold Quill Award precisely because the project had these challenges. The team did not shy away from a complex problem, which would require a well-thought-out, multi-faceted solution.

Of course, the team is proud because we succeeded. We saw a drop in the incidence of damaged infrastructure. Preceding this, we increased the number of calls to BC1Call. We also succeeded in uptake of our message in the wide array of channels and mediums employed.

Importantly, preceding the success entirely, we are proud because this project required hard work; it required advanced strategic planning; and perhaps most of all, it required a deep level of collaboration and teamwork.

What was the best part of working on this project?

While the Public Safety team accomplished what it set out to do, no one accomplishes anything alone. Tailoring our messages multiple ways and delivering in multiple methods, could not have happened without many cooks in the kitchen. This required work from many internal departments, especially Corporate Communications, but also Community Relations, Operations, Damage Prevention, and Occupational Health and Safety.

And yet, the success would not have been possible without our external partners, such as B.C. municipalities, first responders, B.C. Common Ground Alliance, WorkSafeBC, Preventable, and even fellow utility companies.

When these many stakeholders join together under a common goal of keeping British Columbians safe, success can be made possible, and indeed our project is an embodiment of this.

What does it mean to have your work recognized with a Gold Quill Award?

The many people mentioned above are hard-working and tenacious. They are driven by the pursuit of a noble cause: keeping the public safe. Their passion has led them here, and they continue to push the envelope because it is the right thing to do. And they are often doing this work behind the scenes. They are unsung heroes. A Gold Quill Award is a ‘thank you’ to these people, a well-deserved recognition for folks who don’t ask to be recognized. As the project leader, I am very pleased to provide public acknowledgment for all that they do. They deserve to feel proud every day, and I hope on receipt of this award, they feel pride today.

What is one piece of advice you have for other professionals creating Gold Quill submissions?

I believe the Gold Quill strives to recognize excellence in strategy and communication. But that’s not all. Behind every success is a human story. The success you achieved in your campaign came from people who had passion, drive, and creativity. Learn their story fully and tell it honestly.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to this organization for the opportunity to shine a rare spotlight on some well-deserving individuals. Congratulations to all the past and future winners. We’ll be excited to see new innovations in future years.

Want to shine a global spotlight on your team’s success? Visit https://gq.iabc.com/ to learn more about the IABC Gold Quill Awards.

Comments are closed.