The Social Humane Society

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After visiting the Nebraska Humane Society and hearing their Development Communications Specialist Elizabeth Hilpipre discuss their metrics, I was initially struck by how different her strategies were from Amanda Brandt’s. While the scopes of their work are different, they use similar tools – if different strategies – to complete their tasks.

Brandt’s strategy seemed more technical, driven by collected data but failing to embrace the social media aspect of the 21st century (which may be rooted in the newspaper industry’s similarly awkward attempts to embrace the internet age). However, while I think her approach is certainly more stark, I believe she is an expert in her field who makes the best of what she works with.

Hilpipre, on the other hand, seemed more open to a trial by fire strategy, using separate tones on different platforms to communicate the formality of her posts. Although it’s impossible to make a good comparison because they work for separate companies, it was immediately apparent to me that their approaches were different.

 

Town Pets Indicates Domestic Cat And Buildings

Cartoon courtesy of freerangestock.com and Stuart Miles

Hilpipre’s tactics are fluid; they change according to the platform she uses, which is admirable from a bystander standpoint, but they also incorporate a “go where the audience is” strategy. She recognizes the necessity of not only being on top of the Humane Society’s accounts but also manipulating them to gain followers. I think this was especially apparent in her use of Snapchat as a way to promote the animals that haven’t been adopted. Her ability to assess the age of a sector of her consumers and then follow them onto their platform of choice, especially when that platform doesn’t provide clear and coherent metrics, demonstrates her expertise in her field.

The best advice she gave was more in her actions than in her words: be flexible. Everything in her social media strategy focuses on going where the consumers are and addressing them on a level that feels personal. She builds off what works, using a more formal tone on Facebook but a more relaxed tone on Snapchat because she knows the platforms’ demographics are distinctive. She creates Facebook event pages to avoid bogging down the Humane Society’s main Facebook page with event posts. Clearly she has built a persona for the Humane Society that is not only functional but malleable, something few other businesses or non-profits have mastered.

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Animals, Adoption and Instagram

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The SPCA of San Francisco is a nonprofit Instagram that manages their account exceptionally well. Other than being a nonprofit dedicated to animals, which is sure to attract viewers to their Instagram, their captioning of cute photos is topical and informative. They balance the number of informative posts against the number of posts dedicated to finding homes for animals in a way that keeps their audience aware of problems and distracted with adorable animals.

While I’m sure there are plenty of people who adopt rather than buy their animals, it can still be a tough market to corner. There are assumptions of neglect and abuse that stigmatize animals in need of adoption and there are Internet trolls who attack those who have bought animals in the past resulting in further polarization of the market. The SPCA of San Francisco, however, encourages people to adopt but doesn’t demonize those that choose not to.

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Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com and Joe Targonski

Their Instagram account is also adept at advertising their different social events like Dogs on the Catwalk and Be Mine, which both promote the animals in need of adoption. Unlike most advertising campaigns on Instagram, however, the SPCA uses a gentler touch, sending out reminder posts without overwhelming their page. This tactic of sparse but potent advertising works in their favor because in doing so their account feels substantially more authentic. Occasionally posts that demonstrate the need of the nonprofit rather than the more marketable aspects can bog down nonprofit social media accounts. Suddenly instead of propagating the good the nonprofit is doing, the account only demonstrates the massive size of the problem and a feeling of defeat.

In terms of account value their social media plan is efficient at raising awareness and I think that speaks to a well-managed and effective social media campaign strategy. It strikes me that although they don’t post everyday, their strategy remains potent because they get their message across. Additionally because they often have animals in their pictures it’s hard to only look at one post. I think the main message I received (other than adoption rules!) is that social media campaigns have to have an inherent attraction to them that makes people want to read more, especially if they aren’t compulsively posting. Overall, I like their strategy and the beauty of their account, however simplistic it may be.

Changing

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She’s changing the world with love and compassion. That sounds erroneously self-important doesn’t it? Don’t worry I think so too but I also think it’s the best way to describe who I want to be.

Today I could go on Facebook and see hundreds of posts filled with violence. There may be news reports of a school shooting, someone live-streaming a fight in the parking lot, or pictures of horrifically abused animals and children. And while I believe its critically important to talk about these issues, I think society has become utterly desensitized to the images, so much so that scrolling past them barely phases us.

In a world that swipes through pictures that should disturb us, I want to remain sensitive to these pictures because they show me what needs to be changed in the world. Pictures of suffering peoples should be intolerable to see because they reveal the dire circumstances that exist and need to be fixed. I think in order to change the world you have to remain affected by it.

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Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com and Chance Agrella 

I don’t believe I can singlehandedly change the world; create world peace and end hunger. Those are lofty goals that are far beyond what one person can achieve. Instead I believe that remaining sensitive in a world that forces us to be hard is the first step to changing the status quo.

When I feel outraged by the President’s dangerous actions, no longer can I be indifferent; I am motivated to become a better activist. When I see a news report on a school shooting, I ask what can be done to prevent this unnecessary violence.

I can honestly say that some days I wish I could turn the sadness off. There are days when closing my eyes and saying lalalala as loud as I possibly can are appealing, but on those days it’s more important than ever to act lovingly and compassionately.

My philosophy class has been discussing the Dalai Lama’s Ethics of a New Millennium, in which his holiness describes why the world is in need of a spiritual revolution. He argues that we have become self absorbed, too focused on our own troubles to be in solidarity with others. His statement is not meant as a rebuke of society, especially western society, but rather as a wake up call; a call for our actions to be made with the good of others in mind.

I am not perfect nor would I ever claim to be. To follow the Dalai Lama’s indictment is to radically shift my thought process so that I am consistently thinking about others before myself, which is – and surely will continue to be – a long process. But if I have to contain myself within a sentence, she’s changing the world with love and compassion, is what I strive for it to be.

Social Media and the Death of Privacy

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If I’m being honest social media is not my forte. I rarely post pictures to my Snapchat story or update my Facebook status and I tweet only when forced to. Each of the platforms I use serves a purpose: Facebook allows me to keep in contact with my best friend when he is home in Thailand; Snapchat allows me to take stupid pictures of myself with funny filters to send to my stepmom; and Twitter was forced upon me by my desire to become a journalist.

My reasons for despising most social media platforms is rooted in my family’s general desire to keep their cards close to their chest. This is especially prevalent in one family member’s case. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago. As a man on disability he is subjected to insurance fraud inspections, which can include former FBI agent showing up on our doorstep to investigate him (yes, this actually happened). The man walks with two canes and yet a picture on Facebook can spell the end to his disability. This may sound like the ramblings of an over-dramatic ex-theater kid, but I cannot tell you how much I wish I were joking.

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Photo courtesy of Jack Moreh and freerangestock.com

The truth is the more I learn about social media and its ability to track our daily activities the more hesitant I am to use it. Although I applaud the various CEOs who push back against the government’s ever growing power, I cede that United States citizens are far more likely to give up their privacy in favor of feeling secure than they are to defend their rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

As paranoid as I sound I do enjoy the contact that Facebook and Snapchat have afforded me. A few close friends reside abroad (whether for the semester or for life) and through social media I am able to keep up with their lives.

Although communication itself is easier in the age of social media, connection on a deeper level is far more difficult. LOLs and emojis have overtaken heartfelt conversation and defriending has taken the place of interpersonal conflict.

Intro to Mass Communication: A Class to Rule Them All

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As anyone who has read this blog knows, technology and I have had our issues but Introduction to Mass Communication Technology changed my mentality towards the kind of tech I used to see as a depressing side effect of a world addicted to technology. I don’t think I’ll ever be the person touting the newest iPhone as the world’s greatest toy but I think technology and I have reached a tenuous alliance. I understand how intertwined with technology the journalism world is and although I will probably always be a proponent of slow journalism, that is facts before speed, I can learn to appreciate the change for what it is – evolution.

I was talking to my father a couple weeks ago complaining about Twitter and its “water hose” effect when my father surprised me and told me he had an account. My father, who detests social media as a way for the government to spy on civilians, had a Twitter account. He told me that when he started out in the business world he wanted to read the Wall Street Journal but he found that the newspaper was overwhelming because it packed so much information into its pages, similar to the water hose effect of Twitter. He told me that an older businessman told him to only read what interested him and skim the rest. He said this kept the newspaper from being overwhelming and eventually he worked up to reading the entire newspaper cover to cover. I think being in this class helped me build up a tolerance to the intimidating amount of social media usage required by the journalism industry.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com) Old school is still the best school.

By far the most interesting thing I learned was how important it is to leave a clean footprint. Everything on the web is interconnected; people who anger the public risk doxxing or worse being entirely discredited over one tweet. There are no second chances with the Internet, everything is permanent and will follow you to the grave as terrifying a thought as that is. The fear of the Internet instilled by this class is something I enjoyed and hated on occasion but overall this class was truly one of my favorites this semester.

The War on Photojournalism: Pictures in the Age of Technology

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Photojournalism is an imperative in the news world. Unlike paper newspapers (although who doesn’t love a good newspaper over breakfast), good photojournalism is the difference between a decent newspaper and one that has fallen victim to the idea of the new age. Certainly there has been an increase in citizen journalism but one of the roles of a journalist, according to the book Blur by Kovach and Rosenstiel, is to be a role model for the citizen journalist. Photojournalism is no different. A good picture is not something taken on a whim; it is the result of hours upon hours of training and work.

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(Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Photojournalism is a necessity as we move into the age of technology. Photojournalists will be the ones to capture the robotic takeover and possible extraterrestrial invasion, if you believe in such things, because everyone else will be running for their lives. My teacher alleged that conflict photojournalists often have a sort of invincibility about them. They believe, in some deep part of their brain that they may not even be conscious of, that they will never die. In a way all photojournalists have a resilience that the public at large doesn’t have. They document the pain of a coffin coming home from a war far away, the joy of a new baby born to a royal family, the despair of a nation when a beloved president is assassinated. They capture much more than a picture, they capture emotion, raw and heart wrenching as it is.

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(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

When we remove photojournalists from the picture, we remove much more than quality; we remove role models for citizen journalists and depth from our pictures. The emotion of a moment can’t be caught on a phone, at least not all the time; it takes a professional trained in the art of photojournalism to consistently see that which will make a good story-telling photo. Photojournalists hold a key part of the news world in their hands, they see the world as unparalleled images of beauty and agony, and that is why their removal from journalism will signal the end of journalism as a whole.

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(Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

The P.R. Way of Life

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I’ll be the first to say I’ve never been a fan of Public Relations officials, or at least I’ve never been a fan of my idea of how the P.R. world works. I’ve always thought that P.R. officials covered up the slimy conduct of their clients by distracting the public with shiny, new ad campaigns showing all the good the company does. After reading PR’s New Frontier: Storytelling at the Speed of Now by Richard Edelman, I understand that P.R. is similar to CIA operations; we only really hear about them when there has been a massive foul up. P.R. isn’t just about saving face; it’s about creating an aura of decency and profitability around a company.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

Edelman lays out three basic concepts that, in his mind, envelop the duties of a P.R. agency: evolve, promote, protect, (Edelman 5). Evolution, according to Edelman, is “help[ing] position and transform companies…and their brands,” (Edelman 6). Simply put, P.R. companies help businesses adapt to changing business landscapes. A P.R. agent, therefore, must be as adaptable as they encourage their clients to be. Promotion, Edelman elucidates, is “help[ing] launch products…creat[ing] demand, spark[ing] conversations, generat[ing] visibility, driv[ing] retail traffic and trigger[ing] purchase,” (Edelman 6). This means that in addition to being adaptable, a P.R. agent must be creative. They need to know how to manipulate consumers into buying their client’s products. Finally a P.R. agency must protect their clients by “engag[ing] in the intellectually challenging work required to manage crises in real time…help[ing] to repair sentiments…and navigate reputational attacks,” (Edelman 6). The reality is that demonizing the P.R. world removes a lot of the good that companies do. Companies may choose to ignore the poverty around them in favor of profit if a P.R. officer didn’t intervene. The job of a P.R. person appears to be that of a wise guide. They function as the leader of companies to a path that attracts profit but keeps the consumers’ values in mind. In a way they’re the real superheroes of the corporate world.

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)

(photo courtesy of freerangestock.com)