Twitter has been around for nearly a decade, but I still do a double-take when I see U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power tweeting a response to a Buzzfeed reporter or commenting on a fellow Security Council member’s social media post. The importance of government leaders’ presence on sites like Twitter and Facebook is increasingly vital in a world where social media audiences continue to grow. Heads of state and other senior government officials need to craft messages tailored to this medium to reach their constituents and the globalized public.
The United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) Press and Public Diplomacy interns organized an event, “Exploring the Frontiers of New Media,” to discuss the emergence of digital platforms in the era of new media and communications. About 150 interns from news outlets, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations missions and UN agencies, and other New York City-based organizations attended the panel discussion. The panel included representatives from the New York Times, Capital New York, the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI), and public relations firm Burson-Marsteller; it was moderated by USUN Director of Media Analysis and Strategy Alexis Wichowski. The panelists discussed the ways their organizations meet the challenges of the evolving media landscape and take advantage of new communication tools.
“One of the things that social media has allowed us to do is work more effectively with youth and allow youth to work together more effectively internationally,” said Jeffrey Brez, the Chief of NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events at UN DPI. He emphasized how social media foster a conversation for certain topics where once none existed through the use of hash tags and webcasts. Brez also talked about how Messengers of Peace -- celebrities such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Douglas -- expanded UN DPI’s influence online with their extensive followers. Ultimately, UN DPI has expanded the breadth of its outreach, encouraging a lively conversation with interested individuals from all over the world.
Michael Roston, the Senior Staff Editor for Social Media at the New York Times, told how social media transformed the newsroom. While only one person worked on social media at the Times in 2009, there were now seven individuals working on new strategies to integrate Twitter and Facebook with other newsroom platforms “for the purposes of journalism.” He explained that the social media desk successfully delivers news to where the Times’ readers are while involving the readers in the newspaper’s journalism, including as sources to investigative journalists.
Offering a corporate-to-client perspective, Senior Director of Burson Digital at Burson Marsteller Patrick Kerley highlighted the importance of monitoring analytics to track and adjust to the constant developments in the digital realm. Because platforms rise (and potentially fall) so quickly, Kerley voiced that one must be able to identify the next steps as they come and decide on operational changes accordingly. Kerley advised the interns in attendance to “read everything that you can” to stay up to speed with the freshest ideas on the market.
Capital New York, Politico’s newly acquired New York news site, was born from the rapidly evolving digital world and focused on online only when it first launched. Caitlin O’Connell, Capital’s Media and Marketing Associate, reiterated the importance of an age-old and shared idea amongst the panelists: the commitment to accuracy and ethical publication.
Throughout the briefing, the panelists offered guidance and career advice from each of their unique perspectives to the diverse group of interns. They advised the audience to take advantage of non-traditional opportunities, to broaden comfort-zones and strengthen skill-sets, and to finish what you committed to -- even if it’s not the experience you expected it to be. Attendees posed questions ranging from how to create an influential social media campaign to how do government institutions communicate humor online. What questions would you have asked our panelists?
The intern media panel is an annual summer event, so if you didn’t make it this time around, stay tuned for summer ’15! You can apply for internships on careers.state.gov, and learn more about U.S. engagement at the United Nations by following @USUN on Twitter and liking USUN on Facebook.
About the Author: Stephanie Leontiev serves as an intern at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.