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PR from an African American Perspective

Sold on Social Media: Lessons from Gustav

I followed reports on Hurricane Gustav and called my clients, Raney and Carla Antoine. Thankfully, they were preparing to evacuate and gave me a first-hand account of the chaos and madness in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. Carla shared as she picked her children up from school that she and Raney, a minister, took the time to visit members of their congregation who are elderly and sick and helped them prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually for the evacuation. On top of this, she told me that they had a host of relatives in the area to check on before leaving for her brother’s home in Atlanta.

During her drive back to her subdivision, Carla described the panic in the streets; gas stations running out of fuel and even noted when she saw a fuel truck unloading fuel at a gas station; she spoke to a neighbor about their evacuation plans and how they would pick up loose objects off of the ground before leaving so no one would be hurt by them in the storm. Carla told me that FEMA’s contraflow would begin on Sunday at noon, but that was when Gustav was at Category 2. I took note of everything she told me and then I …

Micro-blogged that information on Twitter.com so that people with New Orleans and Gustav-related concerns could receive it and know how to proceed. The responses I received were phenomenal and gratitude-filled.

Soon on Twitter folks stopped “tweeting” or micro-blogging about Sarah Palin and Barack Obama’s speech and began tweeting about Gustav. It was incredible.

Today, people like Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, asked “tweeters” or micro-bloggers what should craigslist do to aid in any evacuation effort. He gave out his personal email addie.

Another tweeter, @urbanreporter (urban reporter) posted live video footage he’d taken during his assignment as a reporter for HDTV and he used another social media site Ustream.com to run it. By the way, Ustream is the official video streaming site of the Barack Obama campaign.

One of my favorite uses of social media is this: http://gustav08.ning.com/ and it was tweeted several times by me and other tweeters, including CSI actor and social activist Hill Harper as well as social media consultant, James Andrews. This ning site is astounding and was developed to keep people abreast of Gustav activity but also give families a central online location to post their concerns and check for their loved ones whereabouts. Freakin’ genius created by A. Carvin.

There are other social mediums working away to report on this effort and to even give place for activism. What I’ve witnessed so far has been short of astounding and proof that gurus, experts, fanatics and even novices like me can do great things with information technology to make a really bad situation bearable. I’m officially sold on social media as a grassroots communication movement, and sadly I have Gustav to thank for that.

 Best, Robin Caldwell

robin@thejstandard.com

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