Social Media on the Front Lines of War

Non-governmental organizations Resolve (Washington D.C.) and Invisible Children (California) have teamed up by using social media tools to bring Africa’s longest-running war close to home.

For the past 25 years, a brutal war in central Africa has been almost “invisible” to the Western world. The rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has been kidnapping tens of thousands of children (as young as 5 years old) in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic to build up their regime. These innocent children are forced to fight and kill, and no attempts to stop the injustice had been made until Invisible Children and Resolve stepped in in 2003 to raise awareness and advocate for change. This past spring, Invisible Children raised $1,778,630 for early warning radio networks in Central Africa to help protect the civilians. Every dollar given to this campaign was raised solely through the use of sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr- proving just how powerful and  resourceful social media can be.

Last week, Invisible Children and Resolve unveiled what is perhaps their biggest social media project to date- The LRA Crisis Tracker. This tool tracks and plots data warning of future LRA attacks, as well as updates when attacks and abductions have been made. It not only brings awareness of the LRA to the Western world, but to the community in central Africa as well. These real-time updates are streamed on Twitter (@CrisisTracker) as well as on The public can also download maps and reports for the most detailed analysis of the LRA attacks. The LRA Crisis Tracker is a huge breakthrough in making the information and data of the war readily available to the worldwide public. Because this war is not on the general media’s agenda, social media networks are shedding light on an otherwise invisible humanitarian crisis. This case is just another example of how social media is making global change possible.

To learn more about the LRA Crisis Tracker and receive real-time updates from the front lines of the war zone, follow @CrisisTracker on Twitter or visit You can also view the LRA Crisis Tracker press packet for more information:

Written by Charlotte Strazdus.

Project Runway Uses Twitter to Keep Viewers “In”

“As you know in fashion, one day you’re in. And the next you’re out.” Heidi Klum’s famous tagline has been a show staple since its inception. True to form, Project Runway has always been about what’s “in.” The design competition, which is now in its ninth season, thrives off creating what’s both current and innovative in fashion. Thus, it’s no surprise that the show has now begun to utilize social media to its advantage, too. And with a Twitter following of nearly 83,000, it’s clear that Project Runway is garnering increased viewer involvement. From a viewer’s perspective, here are a few of the advantages of the show’s use of Twitter:

Viewers Watch in Real Time

Because the weekly Twitter chats happen in real time, viewers who closely follow the show will want to watch in real time, too. Over the past several years, the rise in DVR recorders and online hosts have enabled viewers to record their favorite shows, enjoying them after the original air date with no or limited commercials. However, Project Runway viewers are now further compelled to tune in on Thursday nights at 9/8 central time. Additionally, when they use the #projectrunway hashtag in their tweets, they’re discussing their thoughts on the show with tens of thousands of other viewers.

Viewers Communicate with Judges and Contestants

Through the chats, two-way communication is enabled between those involved in the show and the viewers. When asked during last week’s Twitter chat, Nina Garcia (@ninagarcia), Marie Claire fashion director and judge, confirmed that she doesn’t see the workroom footage until the show actually airs. In confessing that she watches much of the show for the first time, too, Nina placed herself in the same position as the show’s viewers, allowing for a more natural flow of conversation. Similarly, Anya (@AnyadeRogue) and Anthony Ryan (@ryanauld) especially are known for using the chats to thank viewers for their votes and compliments. To their own benefit, other designers are starting to pick up on the trend, too, sounding off on their thoughts about the current episode.

Viewers Vote for Their Favorite Designers

This season, Project Runway has also brought back the Fan Favorite competition. The show has registered a hashtag, such as #PR9joshuam, for each of the contestants. Not only are these hashtags used during the chats to discuss the designers, but they’re also used to vote. According to the competition’s rules, each hashtag incorporated into a tweet counts as a vote, with only one vote counted every five minutes. All twenty of the season’s designers qualify, and whomever has the most votes by the season’s finale will be awarded $10,000. As some of the designers are apparently realizing, the prize is worth some tweeting on their ends!

Viewers Follow Their Favorite Designers

In addition to voting for their favorite designers and incorporating their hashtags into tweets, viewers can now follow their favorite designers, too. Not only do designers build a Twitter following, but their accounts usually include their websites, too. Consequently, Twitter followers can continue to invest more time – and eventually capital – in supporting the designers’ efforts and future collections. Since several of the show’s best designers use Twitter to their advantage anyway, the social media site’s full impact is tough to gauge. Still, through Twitter, the reputations of the designers who are cut from the show certainly won’t diminish as quickly.

Regardless of which designers stay in this week, it’s quite clear that Project Runway’s decision to use Twitter will keep viewers “in” all season long!

Posted by Janie Sikes, PRSSA-UD Meetings Director. Find out more about Janie by visiting her personal blog at or tweet with her @JanieSikes.

What’s your PRSSA story?

Everyone has a story. In public relations, our goal is to find and create that story and subsequently share that story with others. In PRSSA-UD this year, our goal is for every individual walk away from PRSSA with their own story.

In all honesty, my PRSSA story is long. I began attending meetings as a freshmen, joined the executive board my sophomore year, and served as president my junior and now senior year. I have countless stories about how PRSSA has helped me meet PR professionals and develop my professional skills. My PRSSA story stretches from Newark to Wilmington to New York City to Washington D.C. to Orlando. It would take days to tell you what PRSSA has done for me! So, instead here are just a few highlights from my experience with PRSSA:

1. I met Governor Markell and his Communications Team. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love politics and political communication. Last year, I attended a PRSA Delaware meeting in which I was sitting right beside the Governor and got the chance to talk with his deputy communications coordinator (her business card is still in my file).

How it can be your story: We provide scholarships for two PRSSA members to attend a PRSA Delaware meeting each month. Students who attend these meetings have the chance to network with local industry professionals and participate in that day’s program. These professionals LOVE to talk to students, so bring your resumes and business cards because you never know who you might meet!

2. I traveled to New York City and met with Grace Leong, owner of Hunter Public Relations, an award-winning public relations firm on Madison Avenue. Last summer, I traveled to New York City with our faculty adviser and sat down with Grace Leong, PRSSA-UD alum and PR pro extraordinaire. She helped us significantly rebrand and reinvigorate our Chapter and continually helps support us.

How it can be your story: Grace was a guest speaker at one of our highest-attended meetings last year and offered students a unique perspective on consumer public relations. In addition, our students took a trip to NYC last spring and actually got to tour the Hunter PR offices. Finally, Hunter PR offers a five-week paid internship exclusively to one PRSSA-UD member over winter session. (They usually get 500+ applications for their summer internships and chose only four interns, so this is an awesome opportunity for Blue Hens only!)

3. I attended the National Conference in Washington D.C. and will be presenting a Chapter Development session to over 400 students at this year’s conference in Orlando, Florida. The annual PRSSA National Conference is a great time to meet professionals and students from all over the country. Last year, I heard from a variety of nationally-recognized speakers (including the Intern Queen) and met students from all parts of the country, from Drexel University to Utah State to University of Oregon. This year, our Chapter was chosen to present a Chapter Development Session at the National Conference. Our presentation focuses on how we rebranded our Chapter, and yes – all of your stories!

How it can be your story: This year, four individuals received full scholarships (covering registration, airfare, and accommodations) to the conference in Orlando. We received generous support from our Communication Department, PRSA Delaware, and Alyosius, Butler, & Clark. We also actively fundraise to provide scholarships for our students.

4. I built my professional network. Through our general meetings, annual events (including our Night With The Pros panel and Spring Networking Event), PRSA Delaware meetings, Mentor-Mentee program, and regional and national conferences, I’ve met more professionals than I could count! These professionals have helped me with my resume, to find internships, to build my online portfolio, and so much more. When I venture out into the real world in a few short months, I’ll have a network of 200+ professionals I can turn to.

How it can be your story: At PRSSA-UD, we host multiple events to help you meet and network with local professionals – all you have to do is show up! Our biweekly meetings feature a variety of local professionals. We host Night With The Pros in November, a panel-style discussion with four to five local professionals, each willing to share their experiences and tips with students. We host the Spring Networking Event each May, in which students “speed network” with professionals in a more personalized setting. We take field trips to PR agencies and departments; we provide scholarships for students to attend PRSA Delaware, PRSA Philadelphia, and PRSSA regional events.

My story doesn’t end here. Through PRSSA, I strengthened my leadership skills and learned important management skills. I prepared myself for the “real world.” Finally, I found fabulous friends and study buddies that helped me get through all those tough communication courses (including research methods!).

What will your PRSSA story be? Join us on Monday, September 12, at 5:30 p.m. in Gore 102 to begin your story.

“Like” us on Facebook or visit our website at

Posted by Abby Stollar, PRSSA-UD Chapter President. Find out more about Abby by visiting her website at or tweet with her! (@abbynicole1204)

Getting ready for the year ahead! A picture of this year’s executive board at our summer retreat.

Osama Bin Laden vs. Your Decision at the Polls

The day that President Barack Obama gave his statement to the nation about the death of Osama Bin Laden, riots, marches and such ensued across the United States. Is it possible that this made the citizens who have lost their jobs to outsourcing or paid $60 to fill their tank recently forget about all of this? Sure, it definitely is possible. The timing was very strategic, I must admit, but there will no doubt be more consideration when it comes time for us to make our decisions at the polls, more pros and cons lists made, and a shift in focus for the GOP candidates in their campaign.

We all know that Democrats are most well known for being safe, more focused on social welfare than national security and Obama has been criticized for being “too safe” in many of his decisions. Republicans are more notorious for national security and military action than the focus on the public welfare and internal reforms. It came as a surprise to many that Obama would direct such an action or that he had even found Osama after President Bush, a Republican, had not discovered his hiding place for the six years he had attempted. As there was an 80% chance that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in that compound, it was an even bigger surprise that Obama went ahead with the operation. What effect could this have on the polls? Republicans are claiming that there is no need to change their political strategy, but they plan to focus on the economy in the upcoming election. They predict that if the economy does not improve in the next 18 months, then they will have a stronger chance (

Obama’s approval ratings were somewhat low before May 1, 2011, at 46% (close to the low of 41% in the past year) and afterwards, raised to 52% ( Could this potentially keep rising as more and more details come out about Bin Laden? This strategy of releasing information day by day after the death is no coincidence. As Obama’s ratings were low, the intent is to slowly get them to increase as the government ensures that Obama’s achievement does not leave the minds of Americans. This PR strategy is instilled in order to slowly feed our appetites for the long-awaited death of our nation’s most feared terrorist. With all of this in mind, how do you think it will affect your decision at the polls? The strategic campaigns on both sides will make it extremely difficult to choose, especially after the recent government activity. Democrat or Republican, pay attention to both sides and see what they focus on and what they veer away from. Uncovering the PR strategies will be key to making that important decision in the voting booth.

Written by Chelsey Rodowicz. 

Public Relations Fit For A Queen

With an audience of over 2 billion people worldwide, the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has an overwhelming media presence. It is not just news; it is the human-interest story of the moment (and for years to come). And PR pros in Great Britain and beyond have been using the nuptials as a hook to create buzz, generate hits and sell stories, products, vacations, and more. Not only is the wedding timely, prominent and impactful, it also captures the hearts, eyes, and wallets of varied publics around the world as the most newsworthy story since, well, actual news. 

Here’s a brief look at the different spins put onto Royal Wedding buzz to generate media attention.

From imitations of Kate’s engagement dress to “Kissed by a Prince” lip gloss and hand sanitizer, manufacturers all over are slapping a Royal Wedding sticker on their products to generate sales. Souvenirs are one thing, but one you find yourself adding a creepy cardboard Kate cutout to your online shopping cart, you know you’ve been spun by the Royal Wedding media masters.  For more, check out The 7 Most Ridiculous Royal Wedding Products, by Jen Doll of The Village Voice Blogs. 

Travel companies are another industry abuzz with Royal wedding frenzy. They’re mass-producing rates and packages for those who dare to venture into Britain for the affair. Yahoo News has accumulated the most outrageous offers into their article: Royally Ridiculous Royal Wedding Travel Packages.           

News stations, obviously, are also using the story to attract audiences. Stations like CNN had about 50 journalists and producers on site around Buckingham Palace, while Youtube broadcast a live streaming of the ceremony. WEtv and Wedding Central allotted over 100 hours of show time to wedding-related programs. NBC Online also has a blog (The Windsor Knot) and twitter feed (@royalwedding) dedicated solely to wedding news. They’ve even launched a Royal Wedding iPad app that provided photos and reports of the ceremony. Music artists like George Michael and Colbie Callait also released exclusive wedding-inspired songs on news stations throughout last week. And how could we forget Lifetime’s made-for-TV movie “William and Kate,” which conducted a promotion offering viewers the chance to win a trip to London for the wedding day.           

If all the spin on royal wedding buzz has you feeling dizzy, you’re not alone-check out this Philadelphia Daily News rant on the royal ruckus. If not, feel free to browse the plethora of products listed above to comfort you in your post-nuptial depression, although I’m sure we haven’t quite yet heard the last of this majestic match.

Written by: Gabriella Chiera.

Ethics Debate: Unpaid Internships

Recently, there has been a lot of debate around the ethics of unpaid internships.  Back on February 10, the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards issued a Professional Standards Advisory regarding the use of interns in the public relations and communications professions.  The advisory provided legal and ethical guidelines to the industry to “help them conduct their internship programs in ways that are ethical and that will provide meaningful career development opportunities for their interns.”

Most of the debate on the topic is in regards to interns who do not receive any sort of compensation at all, monetary or otherwise.  PRSA believes that it is unethical to not provide any compensation to interns, either monetary or college credit, especially if the interns are doing billable work.  PRSA wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times in response to an April 3 op-ed piece on unpaid internships, in which Ross Perlin states that “Colleges shouldn’t publicize unpaid internships at for-profit companies.  They should discourage internship requirements for graduation…They should stop charging students to work without pay.”

PRSA’s thoughts on the article were that internships are too valuable to be discouraged by universities.  While it really does suck that in order to receive credit for an internship, the student must pay tuition, it should not be looked at as “paying to work for free.” A good internship can be more valuable than an entire semester’s amount of classes.  Internships should continue to be encouraged by University career centers, while providing as much guidance as possible and promoting paid internships rather than unpaid.

If unpaid internship positions start becoming eliminated more, internships will be even harder to come by.  Sure, we can hope that there will be more paid internship opportunities, but in this economy it’s not something to hope for. As I am still trying to nail down my plans for the summer, I’ve noticed that compensation can be an issue for a lot of employers as well as applicants.  Some people just cannot accept a full-time, unpaid, internship or they would have no way to pay rent.  Holding out for a full-time paid internship may seem foolish because such a position may seem too good to be true.  But having to turn down an unpaid internship may leave you time for a part-time job, but what if no part-time internship comes along?  I know that there are many students in this same predicament right now.

What would you do?

Written by Brittany Berger.

Objects of Study

On average, a television show lasting an hour long will contain 13 minutes and 52 seconds of commercials (TNS Media Intelligence). That is 13 minutes and 52 seconds of paid-for access to our eyes. Think about which commercials you remember the most. Ever wonder why they had such an impact on you (aside from the fact that they are shown at least three times while you sit and watch a few hours of TV)? We are objects of study, especially between ages 18 and 25, the target audience for advertisers. They conduct surveys, asking what we think about certain products or what types of television we enjoy watching. They dig into our personal desires and manipulate their ads around what they know that we are looking for. Have those commercials in mind yet? The first three I think of are all similar:

Google’s 2010 Super Bowl commercial “Parisian Love”

Corona’s “Find Your Beach” commercial

The U.S. Marine Corps commercial

How could those commercials have anything in common? They appeal to our desires, our fantasies and our personalities; exactly what all advertisers aim to do. Google (whose ad was not intended for the Super Bowl) utilized a classic love story of a student studying abroad and falling in love with a French girl. In only a few search terms, the audience finds a truly moving story, one that most desire. The Corona commercial, although not a love story with a person, shows a connection between a person, an amazing piece of Earth, and a nice, cold Corona. Watching this commercial, the viewer cannot help but fantasize about leaving their 9 to 5 job to take a vacation and drink with friends or loved ones. Lastly, the Marines commercial appeals to our patriotic and brave personalities. The powerful music, beautiful landscapes and influential words lead many viewers to desire that honor of fighting for our country.

The point is, is that we are objects of study. Advertisers constantly dive into our minds so that they appeal to our desires, fantasies and personalities. This is important to keep in mind whether you plan on going into public relations, advertising, marketing, or even simply as an average viewer. Next time you watch television, pay attention to what is emphasized in the advertisements and how they are presented to you. There is always more to it than just promoting the product.

In the words of the Most Interesting Man In the World, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

Written by Chelsey Rodowicz.

Another Look at Social Media: Healthcare

Social media is creeping into everything that we do, even into the lives of the characters of the TV shows we watch. About a month ago, one of the main predicaments of a Grey’s Anatomy episode was if the surgical interns should be allowed to tweet about a live experimental procedure.  At first the Chief of Surgery would not allow it because he wanted the interns to devote their full attention to the surgery in front of their eyes. Slowly but surely, the Chief was won over once he realized the interns were using twitter as an opportunity to create a forum around the world between hundreds of surgeons.

This new addition of twitter in the Grey’s Anatomy dialog reflects the reality of social media in the health care industry.  According to a panel of doctors, physicians, and surgeons hosted by The Racepoint Group to discuss “Harnessing the Power of Social Media in Healthcare Communication,” social media is just beginning to infiltrate the healthcare professions. Many surgeons have personal Facebook accounts and a few have Twitter accounts, but so far they don’t use those accounts for their professional lives. Some current uses of social media are informative Facebook groups such as MacArthur OB/GYN group for teens with information about avoiding teen pregnancy and STD’s.

There is also another form of social media that reimburses physicians for electronic visits to websites about pilot projects. This is also linked to a change in patient care that is focused on quality of the visit instead of the number of appointments a physician may schedule in one day. If doctors and patients can connect frequently about the patients condition, then the full picture of all symptoms will be much clearer.

My own physician’s practice has a website that allows access to my medical records, my upcoming appointments and serves as an avenue to contact my physician personally. However, I have never used this website because I rarely see my physician besides my once-a-year check-up; I do not see the need for such a service if care is so sporadic.

 I see Twitter and Facebook, and most likely YouTube becoming instrumental tools in teaching hospitals such as John’s Hopkins.  If students are able to ask questions of their peers and their mentors about live surgeries, and even view videos of experimental procedures, new techniques will flourish.

The worry I have about Twitter and Facebook expanding into the healthcare industry is the overload that could ensue. If patients have access to their doctors and physicians through social media, will the professionals become haunted by their work?  Healthcare professionals may never be able to put down or shut off their smart phones because they are expected to answer their patient’s needs. This could easily lead to abuse of health care professionals during all hours of the day.  Hopefully this can be avoided, and social media will improve healthcare in ways we can only imagine.

Written by Sarah Vlach. 

Social Media: Channel for Free Speech or the Catalyst to Political Unrest?

We’re all aware of the political unrest presently unfolding in the Middle East. Most of us, connected and worldly university students that we are, probably found out through our constant and beloved social media sites. It’s how we share ideas, current events,and now political operations around the world, and why wouldn’t we tune in to hear the latest news?

Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube are facing issues regarding their policies of sharing and political neutrality. These sites are increasingly being used by activists and pro-democracy forces, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Faced with posts urging rebel action, videos of rallies and military practices, groups uniting anti-government communities, and photos of civil unrest and destruction, social media is being forced to elucidate the limits of the fuzzy gray area between free speech and, well, TMI. Unless calls to violence or violent footage’s involved (which are taken down by the sites because they are against policy), socialmedia conversation remains in shades of gray.

Current turmoil has put social media companies in a delicate position: how to
accommodate the growing use of social media for political purposes while remaining neutral and maintaining the policies that granted their services international popularity. The rules are not so black and white, especially when facing these issues on a global scale.

Can a social network provide neutral service when navigating the treacherous territory of international politics? How much information is too much to share on social media, and who owns it? Who has the right to determine speech limits when the channel crosses the borders of time and space? When the issues discussed have the potential to overthrow governments?

Stay logged on and we’ll find out.

Written by Gabriella Chiera.

What’s in a Challenge?

A challenge is always meant to test your mettle as an individual; consequently, not everyone looks for one. The PRSSA Challenge was designed to be just that – a true challenge for all of the participants involved. Essentially, the name of the game meant that we were to compete against one another, and our desire to be a part of the winning team would drive us to work harder and think more quickly than the other teams. In the end, our efforts to create the most effective PR strategy would force us to hone our skills.

As a new member of the University of Delaware’s PRSSA chapter, as well as a recent transfer student, I jumped at the chance to register for the Challenge, which was “a one-hour strategic communication campaign planning competition” to be held on March 14. Even so, I must admit that I was a bit intimidated as the evening commenced. Not only was I well aware that I’m still not technically in the major, but I also have yet to even take a Public Relations course–how was I to help my team build a solid PR proposal?

Of course, I had very little time to ponder my question any further, as we were promptly given our task. For the evening’s competition, we were asked to create a plan that would increase the membership of ONE: University of Delaware Chapter. The ONE Chapter at UD helps to build Bono’s international awareness campaign about poverty and disease in Africa. Our clients shared their mission and encouraged us to be creative. Within the hour, we brainstormed ideas, further researched our client, and wrote a plan; after submitting our plans, we presented our ideas to the panel of professional judges, as well as ONE’s President Conor Leary.

Through our efforts to construct a PR strategy, I learned a lot from my own teammates–Kayley Conti, Lauren Rutkowski, and Stephanie Wight; however, I also gained new insights through the other teams’ proposals, too. While our plans for ONE had common elements, it was interesting to hear each team’s proposals. Through the challenge, I not only learned about public relations strategy, but I also became better acquainted with other members of our chapter. Ultimately, for me it was time very well spent, and I look forward to seeing what other things PRSSA has in store for me–I know still have a lot to learn and am eager to do so!

Written by Janie Sikes.