Hurricane Sandy: Three Accounts that Survived the Social Media Storm

Though Hurricane Sandy only physically battered the East Coast, the social media world was swirling with tips and updates before and during the storm. Government agencies, news stations and relief organizations used social media platforms like Twitter to relay this crucial and even life-saving information to those affected by the storm. As the storm wracked the coast, these agencies fought against the traffic that was sending social media into a storm and produced meaningful information that made a positive impact.

arc The American Red Cross played an instrumental role in this natural disaster, as they administered essential information and advice for those in the trenches as the storm hit the shore. The American Red Cross is an organization committed to aiding those going through the aftermath of disasters. However, they were also instrumental in disseminating information quickly and effectively before and during the storm. The Red Cross Twitter account used the trending topic #Sandy to post  tips about finding shelters, preparing for the storm, and even a mobile application to help in the event of a hurricane. They also advocated for blood and money donations during and after the storm to help relief efforts. Three months later, the American Red Cross continues to work with families and update their publics about the relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.


During the hurricane efforts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put himself on the map as a great leader of his tattered state. His Twitter account became the proving grounds as he became the voice of reason and hope for his publics. Throughout storm preparations, Christie posted advice about keeping safe and the most effective routes to use as the state began evacuating families. As a man representing his state, Christie became both a strong voice and a source of hope for the people of New Jersey, promising strength and powerful leadership through the duration of the disaster. Twitter allowed Christie to reach out to the New Jersey people and make that two-way communication possible in a time when New Jersey residents needed a helping hand. By being human over digital media, Christie emerged as a prominent political figure and effective leader through the hurricane.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency used Twitter to do what was most necessary during this disaster; to disseminate information quickly and efficiently. FEMA posted information almost every five minutes on topics ranging from disaster shelter locations to places to find pizza when food was scarce. They also became a platform to share information from the American Red Cross, who worked together to spread as much essential information as possible. As an organization responsible for helping others and responding in America’s time of need, FEMA used this social media tool to its advantage and effectively helped those who were suffering during Hurricane Sandy.


Socially Speaking: A Visit from Christy Perry Toughey

Christy Perry Touhey, an adjunct professor and web content manager at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, joined our class to give us the low-down on everything social media. As a communications student exploring the realms of people-to-people communication, it is essential to understand how to get information to our publics in meaningful ways. How do we use social media? How do we use social media from a company and personal perspective? How do we engage our audience? Touhey spoke about the law of the social media land provided great perspectives for incoming social media users.

Although I already have extensive personal and job experience using social media, I found Touhey’s insights useful from a business perspective. She offered advice about engaging your audience by responding, asking questions, and sharing information. With her background in public relations and journalism, she also explained how social media helps people share expert advice and increase awareness about your brand. As students studying public relations, I am glad she stressed that social media has transformed how the message gets to people and how we lack control over the message. This is an important point for us to understand and her advice offered our class a means of helping to shape the message and respond to the negative and positive feedback.

Her most eye-opening points came from her explanation of social media’s impact on social change, for example in Tunisia and Egypt. These examples displayed that social media is more than just a communications tool, but truly the way to change an industry and even the world. Effective communicators need to realize that this method of communication isn’t going to leave anytime soon, so we must learn the ins and outs of these media channels to reach our publics in effective ways.

Something I wish she spoke more about was personal branding and the idea of empathy. In today’s market, we are selling our personal talents and skills as public relations consultants. We are our own brands on social media, and touching on the importance of promoting ourselves and networking would have been extremely beneficial to the class. Additionally, the idea of an “ROI on empathy” is equally important because it shows that brands care about their customers and are working for the people. If explained more, I think it would make the importance two-way communication and understanding more apparent. We cannot just tweet and post content if it isn’t beneficial to our publics (internal and external), and this needs to be stressed to the top communicators and students.

Overall, I enjoyed Touhey’s perspective on social media and feel it was a great jumping off point for students like us preparing to communicate with people in the digital world.

Nice To Meet You!

      I’m Hailey, a sophomore studying Public Relations and Information Management & Technology at Syracuse University. I’m extremely passionate about studying social media and how it builds relationships between peers and with organizations.
      I graduated from Lower Moreland High School in Huntingdon Valley, PA, a small town bordering Philadelphia. I have a sister, Kelsey, a brother, Danny, two dogs and three cats. During high school, I was a competitive figure skater and captain of my synchronized figure skating team, Philadelphia Symmetry. During my career as captain, we qualified and competed at the U.S. Synchronized Figure Skating Championships in California.
      During my college career, I intend to focus my studies on social media and communications. I love technology and how it empowers people to innovate and create. Social media empowers everyone to have a voice, share personal stories and connect to people in ways they never imagined were possible. As a student in the Social Media and the Enterprises course, I created a YouTube video as a part of our “Viral Video” project titled “Call Me Maybe Syracuse University.” During the spring and summer, the video received over 100,000 views and was featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, Mashable, #140Conference and other major conference around the world. By experiencing the power generated by this video, my passion for social media and its role in our society grew exponentially. I am currently a teaching assistant for the course and have the opportunity to share my passions with other students.
      Aside from studying social media, I also love running and yoga. I caught the running bug from my dad, a 15-time marathon runner, so I like to race and go on runs through the land preserve across the street from my house. I plan on racing the Mountain Goat Run in May and participate in the Flower City Challenge in April. To balance out the intensity of running, I enjoy practicing yoga in my free time to relax and learn about the concepts of spirituality.
      I am proud to call myself an SU student and do tons of activities around campus to share my love for the Orange Nation. I am a part of U100, a student ambassador group the conducts tours for prospective students. I also work for New Explorations in Information and Science, a social media and technology lab at the School of Information Studies. I also work as a journalist for the School of Information Studies, where I write blog posts andpress releases about events around school. I love to compete in hackathons, as well, and was named winner of the MLB College Challenge this past semester.
      As I blog about topics for my Advanced PR Writing for the Digital Age course, feel free to post your thoughts or questions and I would be happy to answer!