Social Media and Hurricane Sandy

“With great power comes great responsibility”

While social media has proven to be extremely useful in many ways, Hurricane Sandy showcased how the tool can also be misused during times of uncertainty and panic.

Fake Photos

According to New York Magazine, Hurricane Sandy is already being marked as a coming-of-age moment for Instagram, the photo-sharing service acquired by Facebook last year, which saw uploads of up to ten images per second tagged #Sandy during the storm. However, a lot of images shared before, during, and after the storm have been proven to be edited.

A poignant photo of soldiers standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a picture of a giant wave slamming into the Statue of Liberty and pictures of sharks swimming in the streets of N.J. all flooded the internet. None of them were true.

These images sometimes resulted in false reporting by major news outlets. A false report and edited photos that showed the 109-year-old building that houses the stock exchange flooded made such an impact that CNN reported the untrue information.According to USA Today, CNN spokesperson Bridget Leininger said that CNN referenced a National Weather Service report that turned out to be incorrect. The National Weather Service spokesperson said that they got the information from several local New York City media outlets who had posted it on Twitter.

As evidenced by this incorrect reporting, a simple picture can result in a multitude of falsities, all of which will eventually need to be corrected. Fake and edited pictures were abundant during Hurricane Sandy, and contributed to the panic that people were feeling across the country.



The Good Side – Relief Efforts 

There were benefits of using social media during Hurricane Sandy. Many relief organizations publicized their efforts using various social media platforms.

Katie Benner, usually a writer for Fortune, created a Tumblr called Sandy Sucks in the aftermath of the hurricane. On it she posted a daily list of ways that people could help. It effectively connected people who wanted to help to ways that they could do so. Within four days of being created, Sandy Sucks had gotten 3,000 unique visitors

12-12-12 Sandy Relief Concert 

The 12-12-12 Sandy Relief concert was jam-packed with social media elements. The hashtag #121212concert was used to promote the event. Various celebrities, including the performers at the event, were tweeting using the hashtag and posting pictures of themselves onstage. The hashtag was also scrolling across the screen as the concert was being broadcast live on 37 different networks in the U.S. and 100 overseas.


The site had links to Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ where people could look for more information about the event. Members of the audience were encouraged to live-tweet during the concert using the hashtag.

Even though fake photos were abundant and some instances of false reporting occurred, I think the majority of the social media used during Hurricane Sandy was positive. It made it easy for people to find out what was going on, and help with relief efforts if they wanted to. The 12.12.12 Concert was a huge success, raising about $50 million for hurricane relief efforts, according to The New York Times.

Hurricane Sandy proved that when it comes to social media, you have to take the good with the bad.


Christy Perry Touhey

Hearing Christy talk about social media was a very valuable experience. Being the web content manager for the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, she knows what she’s talking about.

The same day, I also had the privilege of hearing Anthony Rotolo, Syracuse iSchool professor, talk about the benefits of using social media. His signature class, know by the hashtag #RotoloClass, has been called a “Twitter legend.”

Both professionals spoke about reasons to use social media, and they both agreed on four specific factors; to widen your outreach, to find out more about your audience, to build relationships, and to increase revenue. 

Widen Your Outreach 

No tool has ever existed that allows organizations or individuals to widen their outreach more than social media. With the click of a button, users can instantaneously connect with other users who are potential clients, investors, or audiences. The bigger a network is, the more opportunities there are for growth. 

To Find Out More About Your Audience 

Just as it’s important for your audience to know about you, it’s important that you know about your audience. By looking at what they are posting and responding to, you can better understand what they expect from you or your organization. You can even cater your message to appeal to the audience more. 

To Build Relationships 

So, now that you know about your audience and your audience knows about you, a relationship can start to form. Social media has made it possible for relationships to form without ever having to directly interact with the person. While this can be scary in some cases (the show Catfish is a good example of social media personal relationships gone bad), it can be extremely helpful in the case of organizations and their audiences. 

To Increase Revenue 

If a company uses social media to its upmost efficiency, it can even increase revenue for the organization. Promoting services or offering special deals on different social media platforms encourages audiences to frequent a company’s social media accounts. This ideally results in more revenue for the company.

I really enjoyed Christy’s talk on social media, as well as Professor Rotolo’s. The fact that both of them touched upon four of the same exact reasons for using social media shows that it really needs to be considered an integral part of any organization. It should no longer be thought of as an add-on or a novelty. 


C’est ma vie

“Have confidence in your dreams, they are the soul’s longing for expression”

When I was younger I wanted to be a doctor. Or a veterinarian. Or a teacher. I wanted to help people and change people’s lives for the better. I wanted to feel like people depended on me.

As I neared my senior year of high school, I realized I get queasy around needles and I passed out just watching my 75-pound chocolate lab Roxy get a shot. My doctor and veterinarian dreams were done. I also spent two summers nannying and realized that I could not possibly work with children all day. So just about to apply to colleges, I was left with wanting to help people.

As I unwillingly began the college application process, I came across Syracuse University. I was looking at different programs and started reading about the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. I called my mom into the room, and had her look at the different majors. I asked her what she thought about public relations.

“You can’t do that,” she said. “PR is so cutthroat. You’re too nice for that.”

As it turns out, mothers are not always right.

In my almost two years at Newhouse, I have turned my dream of helping people into a reality. In a field where most outsiders think we all run around the city, attending black-tie affairs and drinking cocktails like Samantha Jones, it’s sometimes hard to show people the good that can be done.

The aspect of public relations that I am most interested in is Community Relations. I want to work for corporations, reaching out to their publics and helping the surrounding community.

I am currently an Assistant PR Director for the on-campus publication, What the Health magazine. I help promote special events like our “Love Your Body Day.” I have shadowed people in the Philadelphia Phillies Community Relations department, which is responsible for raising money for various charities, providing mentorships between children and the players, and even working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to give VIP tours to terminal patients.

My latest endeavor is interning with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. My grandma had MS for my whole life and being able to raise awareness for MS and plan various walks and bikes to fight the disease has further shown me how versatile public relations can be.

All of these experiences have proved that PR can be used as a tool to make a difference in the world, or if not the world, at least to one person. I am so excited to continue pursuing a degree in public relations and see where it can take me.

P.S. My mom now believes that I am cut out for a career in public relations.