A look at Hurricane Sandy and the benefits of social media crisis communication:

Hurricane Sandy was a hurricane that hit the United States in October 2012 and affected 24 states, including the eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine, west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin. Most of the damage was in New York and New Jersey, though, with substantial storm surge damage in New York City.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s response:

  1. Posts and retweets of major announcements by governor
  2. Status of infrastructure
  3. Service updates
  4. Photos shared to tell story
  5. Links to updated maps and service notices (real time posts)
  6. Responses to questions
  7. Each time map was updates, immediately posted to Facebook and Twitter
  8. Continue today to inform costumers of rehab projects

Jet Blue

  1. Press release released via social media to say exactly when flights would stop
  2. Responded to questions on Twitter about flights and delays

General — City of New York

  1. Twitter accounts for major voices, including the mayor, governor and FDNY that constantly updated followers on what was going on and what they could do. 
  2. Facebook page and Tumblr page were used to rally and inform citizens and volunteers.
  3. Governments did all they could to warn citizens and give them every chance to evacuate (having learned from Hurricane Katrina’s disaster).
  4. FEMA officials briefed media and government on proper aid measures.

Con Edison, which provides gas, electric and steam to many NY customers.

  1. Pre-Sandy: 6500 Twitter followers
  2. After Sandy: More than 23,000 Twitter followers
  3. Press releases retweeted more than 2500 times
  4. 25 videos about prep and response were viewed more than 100,000 times
  5. About 140,000 views on Flickr of restoration efforts

Mobile technologies most definitely helped the crisis communication efforts before, during and after Hurricane Sandy. Government officials and service companies (such as MTA, Jet Blue and Con Edison) kept citizens up-to-date with hundreds of messages across a wide variety of mediums. Though Hurricane Sandy was one of the most expensive hurricanes in American history, the PR crisis communication throughout the situation was thoughtful, responsive and highly effective.

I think the best way for Harding to use the strategies seen during this crisis would come into play during something that can be planned for a little more. It would not work for a tornado or an active shooter as well, but with something like a flood or large storm, the use of social media keeps people informed without freaking them out too much. I’d like to see Harding use Twitter and Facebook more, linking to press releases and relevant information.


On Thursday of last week, a PR professional came to speak to my PR Tactics class about her experience in PR, specifically with grant writing. 

Here are a few of the tips she gave:

  1. Document everything. When applying for grants, people want to see a paper trail a mile long. Save receipts, documents and everything in between. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to research. A lot of times, you’re going to need to educate yourself on the specifics of writing. In addition, research helps a lot in retrieving and maintaining stats (bringing me to my next point…)
  3. Keep up with numbers. Know attendance of events, the economic development your events spurred and any other measurable sign of success.

To go along with Burton’s list, here are a few more to add to that, found at npguides.org, a site designed to specifically aid non-profits. 

  1. Prove that you have a significant need or problem in your proposal.
  2. Deliver an answer to the need, or solution to the problem, based on experience, ability, logic, and imagination throughout your proposal. Make sure your proposal describes a program/project for change.
  3. Answer these questions: Who are you? How do you qualify? What do you want? What problem will you address and how? Who will benefit and how? What specific objectives will you accomplish and how? How will you measure your results? How does your funding request comply with the grantmaker’s purpose, goals and objectives?


Burton’s thoughts and anecdotes were very helpful. Her advice is definitely applicable to me whether I choose to go into PR, government and public administration or journalism. Just having an idea of what’s expected of someone in her position is great to know before thrusting yourself into any sort of event planning or PR project; you need to know how to plan your event, but you also need to have the business-sense to write grants as well as the knowledge to ask questions and do meaningful research about the outcome of events. 

Not having any prior knowledge of non-profit PR, the biggest thing I learned from Burton was the importance of legislative work. I had no idea how closely tied non-profit work can be to government and legislation. This aspect of non-profit PR sounds very appealing to me, as I have a passion for politics as well as communication. 

One thing Burton said that really stuck with me was: “It’s always good to be seen when you don’t need anything.” 

No matter what field you are in, this advice is gold. 

I ran across this article from Shel Holtz’s blog:


It’s not surprising that businesses and firms have caught onto the significance of social media as a marketing tool. This article specifically addressed statistics and figures of how exactly social media is being used in successful business plans.

While 39 percent of companies didn’t find social media tools useful, the rest of them did. It makes sense to have a Facebook page and such, but I found it a little bit surprising how popular corporate blogs are becoming. It totally makes sense though. Companies want you to trust them. They want to develop a rapport with you and make sure they are more like a friend than a greasy salesman. What better way to do so then with a witty, intelligent employee blogging for the company? It adds a human element and emphasizes relationships. Maybe businessmen are learning something from all those PR folks after all.

In addition, I thought it was interesting that less than 10 percent of the companies surveyed had specific staff or team members for social media. Most of the companies just tacked social media responsibilities on to their current employees. This is definitely something I see changing in the next few years though. (And handling social media and blogging for a business sounds like a sweet gig. Seriously. Sign me up for that).

A social media news release is a news release that is submitted specifically for use in an online community. SMNRs contain multimedia such as photos and videos, as well as social commenting capabilities, “scannability” and “shareability.”

A SMNR is really helpful in spreading the word about your company via the Internet. It provides the necessary details without being wordy or promotional. SMNRs can be shared across social media and often contain quotes and headlines that can easily be tweeted or shared on Facebook.

However, a SMNR might not be as successful in selling your company due to the constraints of bullet-point information. The information has to be convincing enough to intrigue a potential client, yet brief enough to hold his attention.


Here are links that include templates and step-by-step guides to creating a SMNR:




Here are two recent SMNRs:




A few tips to writing your own:

1. Boil down the most important point of your news release into 1-3 concise, elegant sentences.

2. Spend time thinking up a catchy, descriptive headline.

3. Include relevant, explanatory videos, photos and graphics to intrigue the client and sell your brand.

4. Include links, but not too many. You want to educate the client without distracting him, or worse, directing him away from you.

5. Include plenty of sharing options and pose a question or call to action to get people involved and talking.