A revamped confidence in the potential of the media — The Newsroom (spoiler alert)

The U.S. news media has evolved since its early years. From the earliest American newspapers published before independence to the emergence of yellow journalism and the beginnings of sensationalism to the hard-hitting days of the widely trusted Walter Cronkite, the American public has been riding on a roller coaster of media ethics and credibility, a ride that continues today. It is hard to keep faith in a media so obviously biased and rating-hungry, leaving me to imagine what a truly objective news source would look like. I  believe that I, along with many other viewers, have found what I’ve been searching for in Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO vision, The Newsroom.

By reporting real news events that have occurred over the past two years with real facts, The Newsroom finally gives viewers what they have been denied by a national media gone soft and trashy — the truth. But the aim of the show goes beyond revealing the facts behind the issues facing the United States, past and present; it reveals the potential of the media to promote democracy by responsibly creating a well-informed electorate. Instead of tackling the news media with cynicism, The Newsroom uses an optimism that has revamped my faith in a truly responsible media.

Within only the first five minutes of the first episode,  veteran anchor of ACN gone soft, Will Mcavoy (played by Jeff Daniels), shocks a college audience by taking them (and viewers) on a wake-up call of a journey through the failures of the United States over the past few years. This is followed by in my opinion an even BETTER monologue by his new producer, Mackenzie MacHale (portrayed by Emily Mortimer), who uses her optimism and dream of an honest and forthright news broadcast to inspire the anchor to change the media scene, convincing him to embark on a “mission to civilize.”

Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) and Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels)

I wish this show was not limited to subscribers of HBO or those, like myself, who happen to know someone with an HBO Go account. It is truthful and entertaining, and the populace has much to learn from this great Sorkin creation. Below are only a few of the conclusions and moments of clarity I have reached during my journey with The Newsroom. Enjoy.

  • I have never been able to quite understand what it meant to be a republican or a democrat. I’ll admit — I would google definitions and search for articles looking for clarity on the values and platforms of the two major parties but would always find myself confused and feeling dumb for feeling confused about something millions Americans seemed so sure about. Something wasn’t connecting between what I was reading and what I was observing from politicians. After McAvoy’s report during the season finale comparing the statements of current “Republican” spokespeople to the wishes of the writers of the constitution, I have to say I have found my missing link (the Sasquatch really, only The Newsroom watchers would catch that one). The anchor identifies as “what the Tea Party would call a RINO, a Republican In Name Only, and that’s ironic because that is exactly what I (McAvoy) would refer to members of the Tea Party.” He continues by giving one of the most simple, concrete explanations of what values were held by the original Republicans: a prohibitive military, a common-sense government, law and order, free market capitalism, the presence of effective social programs amongst an abundance of ineffective programs that are costing our country a lot of money. I also love the clarification McAvoy makes with republicanism and the use of religion to justify platforms. I could go on and on about this argument and the misinterpretation and misuse of religion to justify action, and The Newstoom  looks to the founding fathers to clear the air. My favorite quote of the broadcast: “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.” -Thomas Jefferson. It sure doesn’t feel that way with prominent “Republicans” claiming that the constitution was written on Christian morals when, simply, it was not.

It might sound like I am over-idolizing the characters of the show, or that in my starry-eyed fascination I am simply mimicking the principles of the fictional personalities that I have looked up to over the last week. Well, maybe that is a small part of it. But if this show has taught me anything, it is to look at the facts and make educated decisions based on logic and research. Don’t worry, I wont plaster myself or my car with RINO or “I heart Will McAvoy” stickers any time soon. I am simply excited to look into the origins of the political parties to feel more confident when identifying with a one.

  • Something that surprised me: A few of the main characters take prescription anxiety and depression medications. At first I was disappointed when I interpreted the mention of Xanax in the third episode as a common product placement. I jumped to the conclusion that the writers were taking sides on the justification of anti-depression medication as a cure for mental health disorders. Pretty silly of a show whose newsroom takes pride on presenting all sides of an argument. It only took a few episodes, or a few minutes rather, to recognize the intention of The Newsroom to promote the use of counseling and verbal therapy as a healthier option. Examples: Maggie’s anxiety subsides when Jim consoles and advises her to calm herself down. Will visits a psychiatrist expecting a fifteen minute appointment followed by a prescription, but the doctor spends an hour digging into McAvoy’s past so that he will identify the root of his depression. In the finale, Will develops a life-threatening ulcer from an antidepressant overdose, exhibiting the potential effects of dangerous anti-depressant medication.

After bringing this wondering up to a good friend and soon-to-be doctor of psychology, I understand now that antidepressants are necessary in many cases of mental illness, just not as long-term treatment like they are frequently being used as today. I commend the show for addressing this controversial issue in a subtle and honest way.

Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) and Maggie (Allison Pill)

  • I have enjoyed relating to the thoughts and intentions of many of the characters of The Newsroom. But honestly, I find myself relating to a new, unlikely addition to the team – the sorority girl in the first episode who asks the panel at her school why America is the best country in the world. As much as I would like to participate in politics, I just don’t have enough information. Realistically, I would not have the knowledge or the confidence to participate in one of Sorkin’s fast-paced, political-savvy conversations that we see in The Newsroom. They show me how much I still have to learn before I can really take politics seriously. And that is why, after a few seconds of protest, McAvoy enthusiastically invites the “idiotic sorority girl” to join the team. The anchor recognizes that she is not at all idiotic, but a member of an incoming generation of leaders who have been hand-fed false declarations of American “ideologies” and are beginning to question them and to learn more – to learn WELL. So I will no longer deny being the recent college graduate and sorority alumna that I am, and I will begin to educate myself on the important issues facing my country.

I apologize for the random order of the above tidbits. I am a big fan of the show, and I look forward to the next season.

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Would the Honorable Delegates of #HCCS2011 please stand up?

I don’t know why it has taken me this long to put my Lexington trip into words. Perhaps it’s that I didn’t know where to start. I know it sounds cliche, but the experience truly altered the way I see the world, and it really impacted my life. I apologize for the sappiness, and I know that if my student congress friends are reading this they are probably smiling. But it’s true.

This summer I traveled to Lexington, Kentucky for a week-long student congress put on by the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship. I was chosen to represent the state of Oregon alongside 50 other delegates from each state, including Washington D.C. Sadly, this was the first year in the program’s short history to not see representation from every state, and New Jersey was unable to make it at literally the last minute. Each student was sent by the senior senator from the state that they chose to represent, which in some cases wasn’t their native state, but the state in which they attended school. Eligible delegates needed to be incoming college seniors attending a university.

So how was I, a journalism student with little experience in the realm of politics, chosen by Senator Ron Wyden to represent the great west coast state of Oregon? I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

I became quite nervous in the week leading up to my trip. I had been re-training for my restaurant job the whole week before and only had a day before leaving to prepare, physically and mentally. What would I be able to contribute with my college studies focusing primarily on public relations, journalism, and Spanish? Finally, Saturday had arrived, and I headed to PDX to board a plane to participate in something I knew almost nothing about. Although there was quite a bit on info about the program on the Henry Clay Student Congress website, I had relatively no expectations: I was barreling towards a complete mystery.

Finally, after hours of flying and airport visiting, I arrived in Lexington. I had been instructed to head to baggage claim and look for the signs for the Henry Clay Center, and sure enough, as I descended the escalator to the first floor of the small Lexington airport, I was greeted by the smiling faces of Shaye and her mother. “Here’s Kayla,” Shaye’s mom said loudly as soon as I came into view. Pretty good for someone who would be greeting 51 students she’d never met.

After locating my bag, I was introduced to another delegate who had arrived around the same time as I had, Josh Barton from Utah. It was with Josh that I first encountered the standard (and eventually comical) style in which we would soon be introducing ourselves: Not only by our names, but more importantly our states. I made a quip about being a Ms. America candidate, and we ventured into the Lexington humidity to meet with a few other delegates.

“What’s your name? What state are you from?”

Everyone seemed so confident when introducing themselves and socializing with complete strangers, and although I probably seemed equally as comfortable in my own skin, I was still very apprehensive.

It was finally time to board the small, rented bus, a bus we would be seeing a lot of over the course of the week. It was apparent upon entering Thompson Hall at Transylvania University that we were one of the final groups to arrive, and we learned that others had been waiting quite awhile and had some interesting travel stories (especially Kanoa Mayer, delegate from Hawaii, who had been traveling for more than a day if I remember correctly). It is absolutely exhausting shaking 50 hands and attempting to remember 50 names. I gave up pretty quick, and I soon became content with knowing EITHER the state or the first name of MOST of the delegates. Amongst the uncertainty and the serious feelings of being overwhelmed, I had a good feeling within the first day that we would become pretty close.

As much as I’d love to keep up the detail that the post has revealed thus far, I’m going to keep the rest short and sweet. Don’t worry.

Below is my week in favorites, without Saturdays, which were solely devoted to travel:


  • Tour of Ashland: After a guided tour by the Ashland curator, we attended a dinner on Henry Clay’s estate with many of the donors. It was here that I was privileged to dine and chat with John Carroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun and also an esteemed journalist. He is currently working on a book that I cannot wait to pick up. Other speakers included Jim Gray, mayor of Lexington and Martha Layne Collins, former governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


  • Johnathon Miller, the “Recovering Politician: This speaker gave an excellent insight on our generation, and it was here where my optimism about my generation first began to grow. I especially appreciated his assurance about our generation being one of the more philanthropic and volunteer-based, an observation I have enjoyed making now that I’m looking. Find him on Twitter @RecoveringPol
  • Cook-out at the university and the discovery of the beach volleyball court: Team America (us student congress nerds) vs. Transy students. Lets just leave it at that.


  • A constitutional amendment exercise with Dr. Paul Salamanca: After an hour of well-organized debate procedure, I believe we voted in three constitutional amendments. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which three they were. The docket included two marriage reform amendments, an amendment to dissolve the electoral college, an amendment to reform the right to bear arms, and finally our amendment, a balanced budget amendment (that I DO know was passed).


  • Lunch on the steps of the capitol building of Kentucky: Yes, my favorite part of the trip to the current capitol was lunch. Especially after Argentina, I’ve become incredibly temperamental about guided tours, and sitting on the steps eating boxed lunches in our business formal was quite a treat. And picture-esque!

  • Debate on the Three Greatest Threats Facing the Next Generation: Finally, one of the primary purposes to our trip. As you may have read in my previous post, each of us was to turn in our opinion on the three greatest threats facing our generation of incoming leaders prior to the trip. They then placed us in groups on Monday and gave us three days to research and prepare for a five-minute brief, a question and answer session and a rebuttal statement. Since I knew I would seriously hurt our team on the debate front (as I learned from Gary Deaton, speech and debate coach, debates cannot be won on emotions, a tactic I have been cursed with), I offered to read the introductory brief, which would then exclude me from the Q & A. Although our group didn’t make the top three, we weren’t in the bottom three either, and I am SO proud of my group. Also, we were able to debate in the very chamber that Henry Clay first served as Speaker. Pretty. Dang. Cool.
  • Dinner at the Governor’s Mansion: It was at this historic home in the company of the governor’s wife that we, the delegates of Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship, became Kentucky Colonels. I would like be addressed, here on out, as the Honorable Kayla Albrecht. We sure got a kick out of our new titles.


  • Dinner and Tour of the the Three Chimney’s Farm: I have never seen so many beautiful animals. Being from Oregon, I know little… Ok, I know virtually nothing about horse racing, a sport that is like a drug to the people of Kentucky. Robert N. Clay and his wife Blythe graciously invited us to their horse farm, which we soon discovered was far more extraordinary than your standard stable. It was the home of six of the ten most valuable horses in the world, and had once boarded Triple Crown legends such as Seattle Slew, Capote, Point Given, and Smarty Jones (I apologize for all of the name dropping). To top it all of, we were treated to a beautiful dinner and open bar. It was at this point of the trip I debated whether or not this was “real life,” as many of us repeatedly questioned.


  • Presentation by Myo Miynt, following a viewing of “Burma Soldier: Never had I been in the presence of someone who had experienced such pain, but never had I been in the presence of someone with such untouchable faith and courage. After watching the documentary “Burma Soldier,” the main protagonist of the film, Myo, answered our questions and shared with us his strategies with the use of non-violent tactics to bring peace after being recruited into and finally being released from a deadly military junta that has plagued Burma for the past 50 years. Through all of his conditions, Myo has pressed on and now lives in the United States with his family, but gravely misses his home country.
  • Presentations by a few successful diplomats: For our last presentations, John Marks from Search for Common Ground and Beth Ellen Cole, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the US Institute of Peace, spoke about compromise on an international level, both incredibly interesting and crucial in shaping my future plans.
  • Special Event: “The Role of the Speaker of the House: A Tribute to Henry Clay: An incredible event. Shaye and the others at the Henry Clay Center had arranged this event for the public and us as the final bang of our week, and a bang it was. After introducing ourselves to the crowd by our name and state, Speakers John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert to the stage to discuss the evolution of the position of Speaker of the House, from the position of the speaker to the role of a leader.


  • The triumph of “Beer Pong” over “Beirut: Being seasoned college students, we naturally had our past-time rituals. Soon into the trip we discovered a serious disagreement over the name of the game that many refer to as Beer Pong. In order to settle this dispute, the Honorable Will Farrell, representing Nebraska and I challenged the Beirut-faithful delegates from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the honorables, Conor Stevens and Jill Richards. The stakes: the right to name the game. After a nail-biting match, which I’ll have to admit I contributed VERY little to (one cup), we won the rights to the game “Beer Pong.” The best part: If asked, the losers of the game were required to refer to their once called “Beirut” as “Beer Pong.” The little things in life that give us pleasure. (Sorry guys, you can brag about “Henry Clay,” the game, in another arena if you’re reading this) I’ll never forget the happenings within Room 203.
  • One of the most amazing things I gained from this experience was the ability to accept the similarities and the differences of every state. Each delegate was representing a different state and brought with them perspectives from their homes and regions. I didn’t realize how little I knew about each state until I was able to meet a person from each one. It was also interesting being from a relatively new state (compared to some of the most eastern states), and observing how others viewed Oregon. I was proud to represent my beautifully green, western state.
  • How does this all tie into public relations and journalism? I made it my mission to use this experience to learn more about representation, of both yourself and your state (or organization). I found, especially during the debates, that the way you present a statement or argument and the manner in which you argue and reason seriously affects the way you are viewed and percieved. A hostile gesture, or an act of deception can gravely hurt your credibility. I was the only journalism student at the conference, so I tried as best I could to contribute with knowledge and skills of public self-portrayal. I was pretty behind in the political and law knowledge field, so I’d like to think that this other perspective was my contribution.
  • I’ll never forget the Kentucky hospitality. Everyone we met with was so gracious and welcoming, and I especially enjoyed learning more about the area and the fun times spent with some of the Transy students.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad to say goodbye. Each of us would return to our corners of the country, to continue on with our lives outside of this dream-like trip.

Because of the strange circumstances that brought us all together, and combined with the activities, lectures, meet and greets and dinners, we quickly became a very unified team. From beach volleyball challenges that left us with dirt under our nails and scrapes on our knees to socializing with some of the more established and well-known Kentucky natives, heated, yet civilized debates against our peers to our three minutes of C-SPAN fame, this group seemed to have no other choice but to unify. But we did have a choice. So often in the world of politics, participants are so concerned with climbing to the top alone; whether that be climbing to the top of their political party, which has led to the creation of such polar partisan positions, or being the one with the most authority over a set group of people. After witnessing the interactions between the delegates and the members of the Kentucky public over the course of that week in Lexington, I have developed such faith in my peers and the incoming generation of leaders.

I had also made some amazing connections with many confident and patriotic individuals that I am proud to call my friends. We will always have this experience, keeping us connected with a bond unlike any other.

I try to live my life with optimism, and finding the good in others has really been my method in assuring myself that our country and our world will see a brighter future. After the week I spent with the Henry Clay delegates, this optimism has become more than just a mirage, a naive screen I chose to look through towards an otherwise dark and ominous future. I can confidently say that I believe that our country is headed for a fortunate destiny. Again, sorry for the cheese, but it is true.

**Photos attributed to the Honorable Mervin T. White, representative from Michigan and the Honorable Conor “Boston” Stevens, representative from Massachusetts

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Calling all young thinkers

Fellow future leaders,

It’s a long and exciting story, BUT I will be traveling to Lexington, Kentucky for a week this summer for the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship student congress to represent the state of Oregon. For this conference, I will be bringing with me three issues that we as young leaders face today and how these issues can be addressed.

I have so many ideas, and I am excited for this opportunity to voice my opinion as a delegate of Oregon. However, I truly believe that democracy is about representation, and I don’t believe that my opinions are the only valid beliefs. That being said, I would like the third of my three issues to come from my peers, so I can act as a voice for my fellow leaders and bring an issue that you would like to see addressed.

For the last three years I have been learning about some awesome uses of social media, so here is my experiment. I call upon the power of Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress.

What issue do we, the incoming generation of leaders, face today?

Here are the two issues that I will be addressing:

  • The most important issue that we, the incoming generation of leaders, face today is the inherited international reputation of the United States. I won’t be entirely naive and say that war is completely unnecessary; however, when our participation in international civil conflict outweighs our participation in international relief and peacemaking, there is a serious problem. Our challenge is to continue to build our country into the strongest example of liberty and equality while still keeping a world conscience. To solve this issue, it is crucial that we begin to apply more of our budget towards peacemaking forces, rather than military forces to create an international reputation that our generation can build upon and become proud of.
  • Another issue that threatens our generation of incoming leaders is the energy crisis. Natural resources are depleting at incredible rates, and gas prices have been rising as the supply of oil steadily decreases. It is critical that this issue is addressed with the same enthusiasm we brought to other global quests in the past, such as the space race. If we make it our mission to lead the world in the race to develop sustainable energy sources, we can ensure the following generations a secure future with cutting edge technology, the type that once set our country apart from any other. Increasing involvement in this race would also create more jobs within the United States, which is crucial with the movement of jobs overseas and during times of recession.

I am so excited to hear what you have to say. Anyone is encouraged to respond, publicly or privately, and I will chose one to bring with me to address. If I don’t receive any responses by Friday, June 10, I have a few other ideas. I would just REALLY love to hear what you have to say.



Comment on my Facebook status or send me a private Facebook message.

Mention or direct message me on Twitter.

Comment on this blog post.


Thank you to all who have supported me. Along with a bit of nervousness, I am incredibly excited and honored to attend this conference, and I’ll post updates when I return!

Have a great summer, everyone!

** Picture credited to One World


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The art of external relations: useful tactics in cultivating donor relationships

I need to make a confession. Although I have been exploring and using a variety of digital media sources throughout my studies in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) at the University of Oregon, there is one source that I have always been hesitant to utilize: podcasts. My absence from the podcast world is not my way of protesting or advocating against the technology; I simply don’t know a lot about them. How broad is the span of categories of podcasts? How do I find a podcast that interests me? How do I listen to a podcast?

Sparked by these questions, I decided to break into the world of podcasts by searching for sessions about nonprofit public relations practices. BoardStar is an online resource I discovered during my search. Their mission: “To increase individual involvement in nonprofit boards and strengthen the capability of the boards of nonprofit organizations.”

Along with workshops, consulting services and membership benefits, BoardStar offers a free series of podcasts on various governance topics in the nonprofit sector. Every month, the organization releases a free podcast, available by using iTunes or Windows Media Player, that shares interviews with nonprofit leaders. The purpose of these podcasts is to educate board directors on their roles and responsibilities to their nonprofit organization while providing them with tips to strengthen their team of board members.

After listening to multiple BoardStar podcasts, I came across one that really inspired me and got me excited to learn more about nonprofit relationship tactics. In this podcast titled “Donor Relations,” the founder and director of BoardStar, Patricia Wyzbinski, interviews Jean Kenney Dole, Assistant Vice President of University Advancement at Marquette University, about how a nonprofit board can build relationships with donors.

Patricia begins the session by asking Jean why she refers to donor relations as “external relations” and if there were differences between the two terms. The university professional eloquently responded that donor relations implies one type of relationship: the relationship between the organization and a donor. The term external relations suggests a more comprehensive view of all the relationships that board members need to have with their audiences.

Here are some of the tips that I found most compelling from this podcast:

Use the art of storytelling. Jean explains that storytelling is a crucial tactic for cultivating external relations. She breaks down her organization’s methods of board member storytelling using a “pride, impact and challenge” model. She encourages board members, who are creating their own unique story, to think about these three questions:

What makes you most proud about your organization?
What sort of impact is your organization making on your community?
What is your organization’s challenge and ways others can get involved?

By using these three components in their story, board members can construct what many people refer to as an “elevator speech,” or an opportunity to pitch your cause in a few seconds. Jean stresses that not all board members should have the same elevator speech. Everyone needs to have their own unique story that is put into their own language. This way every member can communicate their organization’s message as passionately and humanly as they can.

Cultivate relationships everywhere you go. Each member of a nonprofit board plays a key role in the organization’s external relationship building when reaching out to different constituents and audiences. From interacting with people at the grocery store to attending an event by another organization, board members need to understand that relationships can be created in many different types of environments.

Recognize board member involvement at board meetings. The Board of Trustees at Marquette University meets four times each year for a quarterly board meeting. Although the university isn’t considered a nonprofit, Jean explains that the tactics used at these board meetings could help engage nonprofit board members as well. An example of how Marquette University attempts to increase involvement of their donors is the use of activities logs and shout-outs. By using Excel, Marquette’s Board of Trustees records and tracks each of their engagement activities, individually, throughout the year. Have they hosted an event? Have they contracted speakers to speak for the organization? Have they helped on a donor solicitation? Have they leveraged their spheres of influence to bring people to campus or to an event? By tracking the board members’ involvement, the director can share with the board, or even potential donors, the percent of their board that has participated in external relationship building.

Another tactic used by the Board of Trustees at Marquette University to recognize board member involvement is the shout-out. Each meeting, the director prepares a document that highlights an effort from a particular trustee. This method not only rewards board members for their hard-work and relationship building efforts, it gives other trustees ideas of ways they can get involved, too.

Jean concludes her interview with the statement, “It’s not all about asking for money. It is developing relationships, and that will come if we can get someone engaged with us and understand the true impact.” With this statement in mind, you can confidently venture into the world of external relations for any type of organization with new engagement tactics and methods that are sure to change your cause for the better.

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The angels in Auckland

Last Thursday, our class was introduced to a unique online community for public relations and marketing agencies to share their innovations in the art of social media campaigning: Facebook Studio. After watching and discussing a few of the most successful and creative of the campaigns featured on Facebook Studio, I began to wonder if the site had highlighted any nonprofit organizations’ promotional work. Although many of the campaigns showcased were produced by corporations, merchandisers, retailers and service providers, there were a few nonprofit campaigns with incredible and inspiring results that caught my eye and interest.

For this week’s blog post, I thought I would highlight my favorite social media campaign on Facebook Studio, one with objectives that did not exist to raise sales. Instead, this social media rock star used the power of Facebook to promote a nonprofit cause.

(Click the image to watch the campaign)

The champion of the nonprofit, social media-using champions I came across on Facebook Studio was Auckland City Mission in Auckland, New Zealand. In order to create awareness and raise money for the mission’s Christmas-time months, Publicis Mojo, a unique marketing agency in Australia and New Zealand, devised a plan to help Auckland City Mission promote its cause.

What Auckland City Mission did right:

  • Created an interactive activity. By spreading the images of wings throughout the city for passerbys to take pictures in front of, Auckland City Mission was engaging its audience in the cause. Once the public began to notice the wings posted on public walls, curiosity grew, leading people to investigate and find out more. Instead of relying solely on paid advertisements, Auckland City Mission offered to the public an interactive activity that was creative and fun. The activity was even able to spark the interest of the mayor, who participated in the angel photo shoots.
  • Gave an opportunity to share on Facebook. After tapping into its audience’s curiosity, the campaign encouraged Facebook users to post their angel pictures on Auckland City Mission’s Facebook fan page and their own pages. This was a great strategy to grow the organization’s number of Facebook fans and motivate them to be active on the site.
  • Used social media participation to fund-raise. It can be hard for nonprofits to ask for donations from their supporters. Instead of asking for money from the public, Auckland City Mission tied its interactive photo-taking activity to its private donation process. For every angel photo posted to the Facebook fan page wall, an anonymous donor would donate $5 on its behalf. This gave the Facebook fans incentive to find more angel wings, and it gave them a reason to post to the mission’s wall.

The results from the campaign were remarkable. Auckland City Mission raised $780,000 and doubled its Facebook fan base in a four-week period. Not to mention, the organization was recognized for its efforts and social media strategy in numerous local and international blogs.

Auckland City Mission should also be recognized for its excellent daily Facebook interaction. By constantly responding to fan posts and posting material to its Facebook fan page, this organization has created a real, human energy and a supportive atmosphere, creating a loyal and active group of supporters.


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May the best social-networker win

It all happened one cold Oregon morning. I was sitting in the skylight room of the Erb Memorial Union (EMU) and browsing through the latest tweets in the “Causes” list on my Tweetdeck when I came across a hopeful tweet from one of my favorite Northwest nonprofits: Mercy Corps. The tweet was asking the organization’s followers to follow a link to the Western Union Facebook fan page and vote for Mercy Corps to receive a $150,000 grant. The campaign was called 50 Days of Giving and was launched by Western Union in early November with hopes of raising philanthropic awareness during the holiday season. Throughout the next month I diligently voted and retweeted for the organization. I wanted to do all doing all that I could to help out. I was thrilled to be using social media for a cause.

Here are some details of the campaign.

Western Union began its campaign, 50 Days of Giving, in November of 2010. With the help of its celebrity sponsor and singing sensation, John Legend, the global payment service announced its pledge to donate $20,000 to each of the five participating organizations and award a grand prize grant of $150,000 to the nonprofit that received the most votes in a 50-day period on the Western Union Facebook fan page. In only 50 days, the campaign accumulated more than 92,000 votes.

Astoundingly, Mercy Corps was able to seize 43,000 of those votes, crowning the Northwest nonprofit the victor of the competition. By means of social media, Mercy Corps had won a total of $170,000. You might ask: How did a small organization like Mercy Corps accumulate such an immense amount of public interest and take the title?

The answer is synergy. Mercy Corps relied heavily on the synergy between its social media platforms to drive Internet traffic to vote for its cause. The contest would probably not have been won by using only one social media source.

Mercy Corps started with Facebook. Facebook was a great place to begin to drive traffic because it was the same medium being used by Western Union for voting. On their own personal fan page, Mercy Corps began providing links to Western Union’s page where the voting was taking place. Throughout the 50 days of the campaign, Mercy Corps wasn’t the only one posting to the fan page wall. Many dedicated supporters would not only post words of encouragement on Mercy Corps’ Facebook wall, but they also began to spread the word on their own walls as well. Mercy Corps also created an event page, which they linked to their wall, encouraging attendees to take a pledge to vote every day. Facebook is an incredibly versatile social media platform, providing organizations with countless ways to promote causes and interact with their supporters.

Next, there was Twitter. Currently, the official Twitter of Mercy Corps has more than 10,000 followers, but no number of followers can seem to keep this nonprofit from responding and interacting with as many of them as possible. At first, the nonprofit was posting daily tweets linking to the voting site. By the end of the campaign, there were so many followers retweeting and creating their own promotional tweets that Mercy Corps focused on personally thanking devoted followers. Two-way communication is an area that Mercy Corps greatly excels in, and it continues to show how organizations should interact with followers on Twitter.

Enter YouTube, an online tool that organizations sometimes forget to consider. At the start of the campaign, Mercy Corps posted a video to its YouTube channel that showed many of its Portland staff members personally vowing to vote every day for 50 days. The nonprofit would then post links to these media pieces on both its Twitter feeds and Facebook wall. Mercy Corps would also post videos of relief teams asking for supporters to pledge to vote. This was a great way of showing its audience exactly what groups of people its votes would be helping. YouTube videos are a great way of providing supporters with tangible content that they can then post and share on their own walls and news feeds.

For the reasons stated above and many more, Mercy Corps is a sparkling example of an organization using social media for good. Once the power of social media and the synergy between its platforms is harnessed, there is no limit to the possibilities of outcomes.


Filed under Nonprofit, Social Media

Interactive risk communication: from monologues to dialogues

All professionals to some extent consider themselves experts in their areas of specialty. Just as doctors are labeled as experts in health and science, public relations practitioners are labeled as experts in communication. It is important to have confidence in your area of expertise. However, when it comes to explaining your science to an audience who isn’t necessarily well-versed in the subject, it is easy to get carried away in jargon, turning your message into an authoritative-sounding, monotonous monologue. Risk communication is a unique area of public relations in which practitioners provide the public with important information regarding their health. These PR professionals specialize in communicating messages to protect a given public. These publics can range from small communities to entire countries. This is an area of public relations that requires professionals to understand the importance of two-way communication.

To be an effective communicator, it is important to look at risk communication as an interactive process. Before researching this topic, it was my understanding that a risk message was merely a statement: a static message produced by an organization to the public about a disease or health scare and how to handle it. Although some risk messages are handled this way, the most effective messages have evolved from one-way communication to an interactive two-way communication model.

Dr. Peter Sandman, a risk communication speaker and consultant, does an exceptional job explaining the fundamentals of risk communication and offers suggestions about how to transform static messages into interactive processes. Dr. Sandman created the formula that defines risk as a function of hazard and outrage. An even balance between the two is essential when dealing with danger and risk. Often times the public tends to overestimate the risk by focusing more on fear and mortality (their outrage) and less on the actual hazard.

Here are some tips from “Effective Risk Communication: A Message-Centered Approach” by Timothy Sellnow to help keep the balance between hazard and outrage when constructing a risk communication plan:

  • Use feedback and focus groups. Feedback allows practitioners to know when their targeted audience doesn’t understand something in their message. The information obtained from feedback can then be used to adjust the message to make it easier for the public to understand and absorb. Focus groups are a good way for practitioners to gain early feedback and make beneficial changes to their messages before they are released.
  • Use cultural sensitivity. There are elements of every audience that alter the way they receive and interpret messages. Examples of these features include age, education, gender and culture. Research has shown that women are more receptive to risk messages than men. Younger people are more likely to take risks than older people. People with higher education tend to receive their messages through higher-tech outlets like the Internet. Risk communicators should adapt their messages so that they can be understood and received by people of all backgrounds and cultures.
  • Use two-way dialogue. Once a message is released, it is important to open channels of two-way communication. For the most part, people don’t react well when spoken to in an authoritarian style. When risk messages are like monologues, the public is less likely to accept the message. Community meetings, working groups and open forums offer a great way to keep the public involved and interested.

Finally, it is important to remember the foundation of communicating any message: honesty. Risk communication should never be used to manipulate the public or lead them to believe in non-truths.

As stated by Timothy Sellnow, “In its most basic form, risk is the absence of certainty.” As a risk communicator, it is important to remember that risk is neither good nor bad: risk is a part of life. With these strategies in interactive risk communication, you can now create risk messages that involve your targeted audience and create the most effective content.


Filed under Health Communication

New beginnings

Hello, blogosphere! Welcome to Pathways to PaRadise, a harbor of posts exploring ethical public relations practices. As of now, the purpose of this blog is class related; however, I hope to keep my blogging momentum even after spring term is finished and continue my journey in public relations, here, for the world to see. The pressure is on.

I am currently in the process of finishing my junior year in the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) at the University of Oregon in beautiful Eugene, Oregon, the eclectic gem of the Northwest. I’ve been desperately dedicated to the SOJC and my public relations major since freshman year and have picked up minors in business administration and Spanish language along the way.

I have always had a great interest in the health field (the full story can be found in the “About Me” page), and I plan to pursue a career in health communications. Another passion of mine is nonprofit communication, a field I am starting to break into through an awesome internship with the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope.

My hopes are to use this blog as a forum for open discussion about public relations practices in the non-corporate realm, specifically in areas such as nonprofit promotion and health communication. I’m looking at this blogging endeavor as a learning experience, and I ask that you bear with me while I uncover the best strategies and etiquette. Feedback is greatly encouraged so don’t be afraid to shoot me an email with constructive criticism concerning my blogging techniques. I’m learning! With that said, please refer my commenting policies on the “Blog Policy” page if you have any questions about the tone I’d like to keep in the comment sections of my blog.

I look forward to what my future holds in this ever-evolving field of public relations and relationship building. No matter what your beliefs might be (given that it adheres to my blog policies of respect, transparency, truth, and relevancy), I encourage you to share them here. Let’s probe this topic together. The start of my journey begins here. This is my Pathway to PaRadise.


Filed under Personal