How Social Media Influenced Media Coverage of Florida v. Casey Anthony

•June 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The Florida vs. Casey Anthony case has been dubbed the “Social Media Trial of the Century” by Time Magazine. There are at least three Twitter accounts (@CFNews13Casey, @CaseyAnthonyCh9 and @OSCaseyAnthony) and a multitude of hashtags relevant to the subject, including #CaseyAnthony and #JusticeforCaylee. If #CaseyAnthony is searched within Twitter, new tweets load every few seconds. This case has been compared to the OJ Simpson trial, except this time, the media is not the only outlet for exposure.

Back in 2008, I was working full time and would watch Good Morning America on a daily basis prior to leaving for work. I recall when the Caylee Anthony went missing, and the daily updates that she still had not been found. I stayed involved through the media, catching the story on the news when I could, and then the remains were found. I recall this day specifically, because I could not believe that little Caylee would have been disposed of so closely to the home she lived in with her mother, Casey and her grandparents Cindy and George.

Prior to the discovery of her remains, the social media angle of this case really started to take place. Cindy Anthony created a MySpace account in 2008 dedicated to locating little Caylee. Casey Anthony had been an active MySpace user, and her posts on the website, as well as Google searches for “how to make chloroform” and “how to break necks” have been admissible evidence in the current trial.

After her body was found, I did not follow the story as closely, until Florida vs. Casey Anthony began in May 2011. In contrast to the OJ Simpson trial, the social media revolution had taken place, and the availability of information regarding the case was accessible through the Internet. I quickly caught up on the case that the State of Florida has been building on Casey Anthony through YouTube. Currently, searching “Casey Anthony” within YouTube yields 9,330 results, and current trial footage that took place as early as today.

If you do not reside in the Orlando area, cable TV channels truTV and HLN have live trial coverage in the courtroom every day. If you work every day (like me), you can also stream the trial online through several outlets: Orlando Sentinel, WFTV or WCTV. There are even two iPhone apps that allow you to stream the live feed straight from your phone, for 99 cents. These apps provide information about the trial via different news feeds, and become best sellers of the paid news category in the App Store. Gabe Travers, Digital Media Manager of WESH (who created the app), was interviewed by MSBNC and said, “I’ve seen strangers waiting in line at local theme parks watching Casey Anthony videos on their phones. We realize in reality many people can’t sit down and watch the trial for hours each day.” Don’t want the app? There are daily (free) podcasts available for download in the app store as well. Though they are not streaming, you can at least catch up on the trial on-demand.

The case and trial is clearly readily available for an audience, but who is actually watching? In short – everyone. Beyond the best selling apps, frequently used hashtags, and YouTube videos, there is also an audience that discusses their opinions via Facebook. Facebook Page “Casey Anthony Updates” has over 78,000 followers and “Justice for Caylee Marie Anthony” has over 10,395.

Those that are following the case have very strong opinions about it, including mother Kellie James. Regarding her stance on whether she sides with the prosecution or defense, Kellie said, “I’m just going to root for poor little Caylee and pray for some justice for her.” And who is actually guilty? Grandmother Nancy Rehmann says, “I think the entire family is covering up.” Kellie agrees, “But I do personally feel that the parents do know that Casey did it, and yes I think the mom is lying for her to save her from a death sentence.” Student Chelsey Hellendrung says, “I am surprised she doesn’t plead insanity… Especially since she seems crazy.”

The jury was not only sequestered and from another county in Florida, but also banned by Judge Perry from the Internet and specifically “social media.” He knew how big this case would become. With closing arguments impending this week, one can only imagine the outcry at the results. One thing is for sure – we live in such a digital age that the ability to keep up with every moment of this capital murder case is literally in our hands.

Check out my Storify report regarding this subject and let me know your opinions.

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PR Blogger Elena Verlee

•June 26, 2011 • 2 Comments

Named one of the top 20 Women Entrepreuners to Follow on Twitter Elena Verlee’s blog, PR in My Pajamas has grown by immensely in just the past year. For small businesses and entrepreneurs, this blog identifies the easiest methods for do-it-yourself public relations. For first time readers, she has a “start here” landing page. Her posts are organized and easy to read. They are not overwhelming and tedious. She has a sense of humor and can be related to. These are some of the few reasons why PR in My Pajamas is a blog that I regularly read, follow on Twitter, and a fan of on Facebook.

Elena’s blog is important for not only seasoned public relations professionals, but also people who are new to PR. Primarily this blog reaches out to those who own their own business, but regardless of that fact, her tips can be leveraged for anyone. Her thoughtful manner and insightful posts provide entertainment, as well as solid advice. Her post on April 12, 2011 identifies the 8 R’s of Twitter, which I have been able to use personally on my own account. “For goodness sake’s. Just use your common sense (don’t drink and tweet!)”

Often her Friday posts are suggestions on prominent Tweeters to follow. As a future PR professional, I love these suggestions. I have followed all of her suggestions since I started reading her blog, and actually went through her followers and followed many of them as well. Their posts (as well as hers) are valuable to me to read and stay abreast of the latest and greatest in the world of PR.

Elena’s tips are easy to implement. Many are list-inspired. Like the above mentioned post, she also introduced the 10 elements of a social media policy in her June 15 post. She not only explains the importance of a social media policy for businesses, but also gives clear advice on media relations as a whole. As many businesses are in the midst of learning social media (or just starting it), she has managed to instruct and simultaneously explains all the moving parts in what makes social media important for companies.

Although her posts are not always a weekly occurrence, her Facebook and Twitter are actively updated. Though the posts are sometimes just quotes, they are publishes via HootSuite so that she can reach her audience with the same messaging all the time. Her Facebook status update from June 25 read, “Don’t randomly pursue exposure for exposure’s sake. Be clear on your goals and that the opportunity you are pursuing will help you communicate your key messages.” That summary in itself identifies her own personal goals for her blog. Simply stated, this post SHOULD be a favorite for any business who wants to communicate to their audience through social media. Which is what makes Elena not just an expert in the field, but a successful entrepreneur herself.

Check out these other acknowledgements that Elena has received:

Top 10 Facebook Pages for PR Professionals to Follow

25 Essential PR Blogs You Should Be Reading

35 Female Visionaries You Need To Know

You should also fan her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @elenaverlee.

Leveraging Flixlab for the Media

•June 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Organization or Business Name: N/A

Annual Operating Budget: $0

Project Title: Leveraging Flixlab by the Media

Requested amount from Knight News Challenge: $0

Expected amount of time to complete project: Can begin immediately

Total cost of project including all sources of funding: $0

Describe your project
A new iPhone app called Flixlab was recently released that allows iPhone users to share videos and photos with other users of the app. It also allows you to create videos from the combination of the photos and videos immediately on your iPhone. This (free!) app is simple to use, and leverages a lot of raw video content that might not seem useful otherwise.

Image from Flixlab.com

How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered
The main purpose of Flixlab is to put video together simply and quickly. For journalists, this could be very advantageous when they are in the field covering a story. A big problem currently for journalists is that often they are not the first to cover breaking stories and events.

With Flixlab, they will be able to shoot the video and immediately edit and publish it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or sent via email. Using a cloud-based social video platform, you simply choose the clips you want, a theme, and background music, and Flixlab assembles the video and streams it back to your phone. Once completed, you download it. The simplicity of this app would allow journalists to effectively cover the news, and then publish it via social media in real time.

This app also allows you to share your content with other users who have the app. This could change journalism in the way that we gather content. It becomes as simple as – point, shoot, share.

How is your idea innovative?
Right now, one of the biggest disadvantages to journalists is that they are not always the first to break a story. Sometimes a Facebook status, YouTube video or a simple tweet relays an event that is going on as it happens. Often, journalists cover the story after the fact, and miss the opportunity to take part in the live event.

With Flixlab, the ability to create high quality digital-ready content is a reality. As for news organizations, posting raw video without any context would be unprofessional. This app allows you to create professional video segments in a very simple manner. All the journalist will need is an iPhone (the Android app will soon be released).

What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project?
The main advantage to this app is that it is FREE and has already been released. The six-man team of Flixlab has worked at Adobe, Microsoft and Sony, to name a few. More information can be found on their website (http://www.flixlab.com/about/).

Cover It Live: The Casey Anthony Trial

•June 19, 2011 • 2 Comments

Almost exactly three years ago, a little girl named Caylee Anthony was last seen alive. Her mother, Casey, did not tell anyone until mid-July 2008 that Caylee had been kidnapped, and shortly after her story fell apart, Florida prosecutors arrested and charged her with murder. On May 24, 2011, the trial of Casey Anthony began.

America has been entranced by this story, which has starts and ends with an innocent little girl, whose sole parent is now charged with her murder. Using the Cover It Live software, I watched the beginning of the defense’s argument, which included testimony by DNA expert witness Heather Seubert, a Michigan State University graduate.

Two Twitter streams were included in the Cover It Live event, @OSCaseyAnthony and @CFNews13Casey, as well as two hashtags, #CaseyAnthony and #JusticeforCaylee. I did not really care for the Cover It Live software. I would prefer using Twitter and interacting with the people who were tweeting with the hashtags. I do not think anyone was watching my Cover It Live event, because I had no interaction. With Twitter, I could at least communicate with the others tweeting with the #CaseyAnthony hashtag.

I also found that it was not as easy to add videos and Flickr images as I would have liked. I had found photos and videos in advance and added the links in the software, but when I clicked them, it only showed the link, not the actual photo or video. I had to delete those and then go back to find the actual links.

I would probably not use the Cover It Live software in the future because of this experience. You can re-watch my event through my Posterous blog.

Engaging in Conversation via Live Tweet

•June 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I engaged my first live Tweet conversation this last week with the popular #wjchat hashtag. Before this event, I had no idea that these types of events were scheduled in advance, or that people often engaged in them on a weekly basis. I felt very lucky that so many experienced journalism professionals, and the topic (journalism internships and jobs) is relevant to anyone, whether or not they are interested in journalism specifically. This chat is held on Wednesday nights at 8 PM EST.

At first, the chat seemed to be off to a slow start. We introduced ourselves and asked a few questions to get started, but it seemed that everyone was waiting for someone else to answer. It wasn’t until about 8:30 that the conversation really sparked. I was initially tweeting back and forth with @marizary, who had several questions about engaging with bloggers. Though it wasn’t exactly on topic, we engaged several tweets about the topic and how to reach out and talk to them.

The height of the conversation (for me) was when I asked the group about cover letters. From my experience, cover letters are not requested when applying for a job as much as they used to be, and honestly I don’t think hiring managers even read them anymore. Boy, was I wrong. @wcochran was the most helpful in this dialogue. He explained to me that not only are cover letters necessary, they are the key to allowing you to stand out from the crowd, and @SylviaCarignan pointed out that it makes the interview process more personal. An outline of my conversation in the chat can be found in this Storify post.

Because I am only six months from finishing my Master’s degree in Public Relations, I found the conversation to be extremely beneficial. I loved the topic, the participants were knowledgeable and very interested in helping explain their points of view. #wjchat was definitely a great experience that I look forward to participating in soon.

Top 5 Tips For Planning Your Wedding

•June 12, 2011 • 1 Comment

As the Event Coordinator for the Michigan State Horticulture Gardens, I have the responsibility of coordinating approximately 60 events this summer, the majority of which are weddings. Both ceremonies and receptions can be held at the Gardens, and nearly every Saturday from the end of May until the end of August is booked. Wedding planning can be extremely stressful for any bride, as proven by the variety of wedding-related TV shows, such as Bridezillas.

Look up the venue in advance.

A search engine should be your best friend when searching for a ceremony or reception site. Nowadays, everyone has a website. Most of these sites hold at least some information for you, and should have pictures as well. Our website includes photo contributions from prior weddings that showcase how beautiful all three gardens are.

Book your ceremony and reception sites EARLY.

Wedding ceremony and reception sites can book up a year in advance. I have been meeting with brides since last winter about weddings in 2012. If your heart is set on a specific date, the first question you should ask a potential venue is if that date is even available. If it’s not, you won’t need to waste your time looking at that location.

Plan extra time to set up and take down your reception.

Some reception sites do a lot of the set up for you, and well in advance. These items include tents, tables, chairs and lights. However, you will be responsible for your table settings, which include linens, centerpieces and any other extra decorations. These items may not sound like a lot of work to set up, and perhaps they aren’t, but often they take time. Don’t forget to add extra time into your rental period for this set up. In addition, many reception sites do multiple events in a weekend. They might need you to take down your decorations before your rental period ends. (This process is much less enjoyable than the actual set up.) No one wants to stay behind after the party is over, but the clean up is necessary. Just remember to add in that time as well.

Read your rental contract CAREFULLY.

All policies will be spelled out in your contract. You will have several contracts (caterer, venue, photographer, etc), but each should be evaluated with care. Ask any questions you might have. If there is any reason you incur extra charges, or perhaps you don’t receive your damage deposit back, you should know why. A simple outline to contracts can be found The Wedding Channel’s website.

No question is stupid.

I am a firm believer in asking questions if you don’t understand something. If you are unclear about anything, always ask! If your vendor doesn’t know the answer, it is his or her job to find out the answer for you. They aren’t mind readers, so if you are feeling uneasy about something, talk to them. I would much rather answer a hundred questions than for any bride to have a false expectation that I can’t fulfill.

We are currently in the process of developing a Facebook fanpage for the Gardens so that brides can communicate with us in a more convienient way. Check out our in progress page and let me know if any suggestions you might have!

One easy platform to organize social media: Storify

•June 5, 2011 • 2 Comments

As a huge Apple fan, I have been keeping an eye on the rumors regarding the Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in anticipation of new hardware releases. When I saw the flood of tweets and articles released about the new software, I was intrigued that any information would be released in advance. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Apple did indeed send out a press release early that outlined what Steve Jobs will be discussing on June 6. From there, I decided to gather as much reliable intelligence as possible into this week’s Storify post.

Because Apple is such a large and well-respected company (as well as the name of a piece of fruit), initially searching in Storify doesn’t always provide the most informative responses. Because I knew that one of the new software released will be the iCloud streaming music service, I altered my search to “iCloud Apple” and was much more successful in my search. From there, finding credible sources was the issue. Other Apple nerds, such as myself, had been tweeting endlessly. The ability to search for a user/list helped when finding reputable and specific sources, such as Wall Street Journal. Searching in Flickr and YouTube was a little more difficult, as the hardware releases are brand new.

One of the nicer aspects of Storify is how easy you can see what people are saying. I can definitely see PR professionals using this platform to help mold together all-compassing stories on what news sources are saying about their company or products and services. For journalists, Storify can be an extremely valuable method to gather information without spending too much time searching all the outlets separately. In short, Storify allows users to easily weed through the overabundance of information on the web, resulting in valuable, methodical, and meaningful posts.