June 14, 2011, Arlington, VA—In a society where technology relays messages in a matter of seconds, it is critical to actively control and structure the political images portrayed. “Your message is what your image is,” explained Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Insurance Association, to an eager crowd of close to 40 students at the Leadership Institute’s three-night Public Relations School. “You must mold your digital footprint.”
For Jennifer Lundy of Areva Enrichment Services, efficiently managing social media is becoming increasingly important. “I have worked in politics a lot, but not in social media and crisis management. This school gave me a better outlook on social media and showed me what can be done better in a crisis situation.”
As Lindsay Mask, communications director for Congressman Howard P. McKeon, said, “Perception is reality and crises management is critical—come out fast and clean, short and sweet.” She went on to conclude that “the minute something happens, technology won’t hide it.”
Students also learned the importance of utilizing social media professionally. “Social media does not change the business process or the organization’s goals; it allows follow-up, awareness of what people are saying, and the ability to respond immediately,” said Abigail Alger, director of digital communications at LI.
“Learning ways to track traffic and better use Facebook and Twitter was helpful and new to me. Also, it was good to learn how to better use the information on these sites,” explained Heather Rameau of the Inspector General’s office.
The practical and informative nature of the talks resonated with many. “Hearing an actual press secretary apply concepts to real life circumstances made everything more relevant,” commented student Grant Miller. “The quality of the presenters was unparalleled and their willingness to engage and assist students in their professional pursuits is exemplary.”