DISCLAIMER: A major assignment in my Ethics for Public Relations Professionals class was to write a personal code of ethics that will later be used in my Capstone class at the end of my master’s program. I have been writing my personal code for several weeks, and I am very excited about the finished product. I think that I will hold myself more accountable for living my life according to this code if it is public information. I realize that it is a little long, especially for a blog post, but I thought I would share anyways. Enjoy!


My personal values act as a basis for distinguishing between right and wrong and thus, determine my daily actions and emotions. My parents and education have played profound roles in the development of my core personal values: personal integrity, excellence, responsibility, family and ambition. Additionally, these influences have demonstrated certain rule-based, ends-based, and virtue-based approaches to determining what conduct is consistent with these key values.

Through her own actions, my mom has taught me to always put my family first, and to evaluate the morality of my potential actions with an ends-based approach by considering the consequences for the rest of my family (Gower, 2008). My mom is incredibly compassionate, and her main goal in life is to protect her family and help her children grown into happy, healthy adults. When my younger brother was born, my mom chose to stop practicing nursing so that she could raise her children and instill in us many of the values that are outlined in this code. As my brother and I move towards adulthood, my mom urges us to support each other in all of our endeavors and further grow our friendship. The result, she says, will be an unbreakable bond that will sustain us even when our parents have passed.

Siding with deontological philosophers and demonstrating a rule-based approach, my mom taught me that disrespectful, dishonest, and self-centered actions were morally wrong, regardless of their outcomes (Gower, 2008). She also regularly acted upon her strong sense of duty to help others. Even if she was driving carpool, it was not uncommon for her to pull off the road to help a confused-looking elderly lady or a lost pet. Even though this delay often made my friends and me late to our destinations, my mom’s actions were moral based on her motive (Gower, 2008). Her stern belief that “it takes all types to make the world go ‘round” has influenced me to use the rights approachto consider the rights of individuals, to respect human dignity, and to avoid using people as a means to an end (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 1996).

My dad’s insistence upon moving beyond his modest background and aspiring to distinction within his in his profession has inspired my commitment to accomplishment and success, knowledge and higher education, hard-work, excellence and wealth. My dad was one of four brothers raised on my grandparent’s rural horse farm outside of Baltimore. Every day, he and his brothers endured teasing by their more affluent private school classmates who thought the boys smelled like horses. My dad and his brothers were not expected to go to college, since no one in their family had done so before. My dad’s brothers were kicked out of private school after private school and eventually gave up on their educations. Instead of following suit, my dad worked tirelessly to become one of the top physicians in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. With regards to his goals and education, he demonstrated egoism – enlightened self-interest and a focus on what would provide the most good for him in the long-run (Gower, 2008).

My dad’s practice of medicine requires him to make ethical decisions on a daily basis, and he often takes a utilitarian approach to determining what is right (Gower, 2008). For example, he would recommend the termination of a pregnancy that neither the mother nor baby could reasonably be expected to survive. While some people view abortion as inherently wrong, my dad would not use a rule-based approach in the aforementioned case; instead, he would focus on the consequences of his actions and try to keep the highest number of patients, fetuses, and babies healthy. However, whenever I have consulted my dad on a personal ethical dilemma, he has rarely focused on the reasons for or the consequences of my possible decisions. More often, he has asked me to apply a virtue-based approach by examining the individual actor rather than the action itself (Gower, 2008). This required me to consider how my possible decisions would reflect on the person I am, and how that person would compare to my best possible self (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 1996).

I attended a private preparatory school, Collegiate School in Richmond, VA, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Collegiate’s 1,500 students (grades K-12) abide by a strict honor code and live according to the school’s shared values of honor, love of learning, excellence, respect and community (Collegiate School, n.d.). Students are expected to become heavily involved in the community- they must participate in at least two out of the three sports seasons, among other extracurricular requirements. The Collegiate community instilled in me values that guide my virtue-based approach to personal ethics, and it taught me to consider the common good of the community when making ethical decisions (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, &Meyer, 1996).  

During my undergraduate experience at Washington and Lee University (W&L), I was again part of a tight-knit community that emphasized honor, integrity and civility and abided by a rigorous honor system. The W&L Honor System means that students must never lie, cheat or steal and that they must respect other people, their opinions and their property. It punishes only actions that the current student body sees as violations of the community’s trust. Furthermore, it does not rank these breaches of trust by their severity, and it does not overlook “smaller” violations. The consequence for any violation of the Honor System is dismissal from W&L (Washington and Lee University, n.d.). In this way, W&L uses a rule-based approach to judging ethical behavior (Gower, 2008). W&L’s honor system originated with Robert E. Lee, who said, “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentleman” (Washington and Lee University, n.d.). Unfortunately, during my time at W&L, I witnessed many students abandoning gentleman-like behavior upon entering gossip-infused fraternity lunch rooms or substance-infused fraternity parties. These occasions resulted in me promising myself to carry my core values with me at all times, no matter the situation.

Ethos Statement

As a result of my background, I place a special emphasis on maintenance of personal integrity, pursuit of excellence, acceptance of responsibility, love of family and achievement of ambitious goals. I have high expectations for myself with regards to my actions; on at least a weekly basis, I take time to reflect on who I am and how that compares to my best possible self. My actions make me who I am, so it is important that I honor the following commitments in all of my actions, both personal and professional (Georgetown University, n.d.):

  • A commitment to doing in my heart what I know is just and right.
  • A commitment to performance that produces exceptional results and quality as a way of life.
  • A commitment to valuing the trust and confidence of my family, friends, co-workers, employers and/or clients and community.
  • A commitment to spending time with my family, supporting them in all of their endeavors and making them proud.
  • A commitment to my personal image of what can be and my belief that it will be; a commitment to setting goals and systematically working towards achieving them.

Code of Conduct

Conduct consistent with my value of personal integrity:

1. I will not change who I am for others, and I will stand up for my beliefs even when they are unpopular.

Explanation: If I’m not confident in myself and respectful of what I believe, then I cannot expect others to exhibit confidence in me and respect my beliefs.  While it may be uncomfortable for me when other people disagree with my actions, and while my unpopular actions may not yield the most positive outcomes for me, my ethical decision making is often rule-based and virtue-based rather than consequence-based. To me, my motives (ex: honoring my commitment to respect individual human dignity) and my virtues (ex: personal integrity) are better determinants of my own morality than are the consequences of my actions (ex: being unpopular with my co-worker or not getting a promotion.)

The nature of the communications field requires its professionals to advocate on behalf of an organization, person or cause (Parsons, 2008). Propagating a message that I don’t personally endorse is the same as lying to the public and failing to stand up for my own beliefs. By professionally disseminating a message that I personally oppose, I would clutter the relevant “marketplace of ideas” (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 4) and weaken the messages in line with my actual point of view. In other words, attempting to persuade the public on a point of view that I myself do not support would compromise my personal integrity. Therefore, I will be extremely selective in choosing the clients on whose behalf I advocate as a communications professional (Parsons, 2008).

Dr. Seuss said it best- “Be who are you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  The people who truly care about my well-being will not try to change me, even if they do not always agree with me. Instead, they will accept me for who I am and acknowledge my right to have different beliefs than them. While I may be disappointed as I come across “those who mind,” Dr. Seuss’s advice will ultimately help me recognize “those who matter.”

2. I will treat people as I want to be treated myself (the Golden Rule).

Explanation: Put simply, I will always be courteous and civil in my day-to-day dealings with people. Just because I am in a bad mood does not give me the right to take my frustrations out on the world. In fact, it is important that I try to brighten other peoples’ days and have a positive impact on everyone with whom I come into contact. For example, rather than sitting silently during cab rides and ignoring my driver, I choose to engage him or her in conversation. Everyone has an interesting life story that they are bursting to tell. By applying reversibility, I know that my day is always better when someone expresses interest in hearing mine.

3. I will value basic human dignity and rights and will not intentionally cause harm to another human being.

Explanation: Human beings have the God-given ability to decide for themselves how they will lead their lives, and they have a basic moral right to have their decisions respected. This freedom to choose gives humans, regardless of their race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, a unique dignity (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 1996). As long as an individual respects the human dignity of others, then that individual deserves to have his or her dignity acknowledged by me and to be free from the threat or occurrence of any sort of physical, verbal or emotional abuse. I adopt a rights-based approach to determining the morality of my behavior. In other words, my actions must treat humans as ends in and of themselves (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 1996).  

4. I will be transparent in my purpose and act in a manner that is fair and just for all concerned.

Explanation: It is important to promote a spirit of openness in both my personal and professional lives. In some aspects of my personal life, I do claim my right to privacy and/or am willing to tell non-harmful white lies to spare the feelings of others. However, I have most often found that it is the truth that will “set me free.” I am willing to disclose all aspects of my professional life; when making professional decision, I use the “front page of the Post” test to guide my behavior. I refuse to hide information from a party who deserves access to it; however, as my career progresses, I expect to encounter grey areas. To determine whether withholding certain information would be unethical in these situations, I will ultimately examine my motives for omitting information (Parsons, 2008). I will also keep in mind that “if you don’t tell the truth, then your publics, once they are aware of this, have difficulty trusting you” (Parsons, 2008, p. 24). I owe it to my publics to serve as a credible source of accurate information.

Conduct consistent with my value of excellence:

5. I will never be satisfied with anything being less than my best effort.

Explanation: I am committed to trying my hardest in all aspects of life, be it a work assignment or a personal relationship. I grew up as an anxious perfectionist, but luckily, my mom finally ingrained in me her motto: “as long as you give it your best effort, that’s all you can do.” To me, excellence is not about the results I achieve; instead, it is about the means by which I achieve them and my adherence to standards and rules that I have set for myself. In prioritizing where my “best efforts” go, it is important that I maintain a healthy work-life balance. After all, if I dedicate all of my time and effort to my professional life, my personal life will go by the wayside, and I will not achieve excellence (or happiness) in this realm. While the meaning of a healthy work-life balance will change as I continue to evolve, it currently involves excelling at the office and in the classroom while still being a reliable and present family member and best friend and saving time for daily activities that I enjoy, like exercising and reading.

6. I will seek continuous improvement.

Explanation: Personally, it is important that I strive to live a more virtuous life every day. The more that I can live according to my virtues, the more moral my actions will be and the more ethical of a person I will be (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 1996 ). Professionally, competence is necessary to achieve excellence. I agree with Parsons (2008) when she says “respecting our clients, our communities, and ourselves requires us to exhibit competence in our professional activities” (p. 55). I will maintain a level of competency in my profession through continuing education opportunities and selective client choice. Currently, I am working towards my master’s degree in public relations with a concentration in digital communications at Georgetown University. I also attend internal workshops at my company and stay up-to-date on the latest social media news and trends. I do not take on client work that I know I am not qualified to handle. Instead, I work with a supervisor on the task so that I can be qualified to handle such work in the future. 

Conduct consistent with my value of responsibility:

7. I will keep my promises and honor my commitments.

Explanation: Because I play many roles, my promises and commitments take many forms, including promises to myself, my friends, my family and my profession as well as contracts, agreements, assignments for work and my professional development classes. One especially important professional commitment is confidentiality to my employer and/or client. Unfortunately, there will be times when my responsibilities to myself, my employer or client, my profession and society will come into conflict with each other, and some responsibilities will take priority over the others (Parsons, 2008). In these cases, I will use virtue to juggle my loyalties to these different parties on a case by case basis. My reason for developing a career in communications is to serve the public through the delivery of accurate messaging to inform their decisions and ultimately improve society.  Therefore, my duty to society is ethically greater than my duty to my employer or client, and is the “key to social responsibility” (Parsons 2008, p. 26).

8. I will fulfill the functional and moral obligations of my many roles and accept accountability for my shortcomings, negligence and oversight in fulfilling these obligations.

Explanation: My many roles include daughter, sister, best friend, student, assistant account executive, Christian and housemate. In each of these roles, I fulfill functional obligations as well as related moral obligations (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006). For example, one of the functional obligations for my job is to assist with blogger outreach and track resulting blog hits; a related moral obligation is to ensure that bloggers who write about our client in response to our blogger outreach activities fully disclose their relationship with our client and outreach program.  Since the functional obligations of a role are often accompanied by moral obligations, “responsibility assumes that the actor becomes also a moral agent possessed of a certain level of moral maturity and ability to reason” (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 20).  I will hold myself accountable for an action if I am “functionally and/or morally responsible for an action, some harm occurred due to that action” and) I “had no legitimate excuse for the action” (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 21). To avoid questions of personal accountability, I will strive for relative autonomy in all of my roles, but particularly in my role as a responsible public relations professional. If I am not to have excuses for my actions, and thus accept accountability for them, then I must be “free to make decisions” associated with my job “without outside pressure or influence” from my company, supervisors, coworkers, or clients (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 21). Accepting accountability when I fail to fulfill certain obligations means that I make these unintentional wrongs right regardless of any inconveniences to me.

9. As a communications professional, I will tell the truth for the common good of my publics.

Explanation: Truth is the “singular most important element in the efficient operation of the marketplace of ideas in American society” (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 11). This is because the marketplace of ideas concept “rests on the premise that the truth will emerge from ideas and messages competing in a public form” (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 12). This means that any effort to disseminate false truths or hinder the dissemination of truthful information interferes with my publics’ informed decision making and rights to receive accurate and truthful information (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006). Thus, as a responsible public relations professional, my advocacy for clients must “equalize access to the marketplace,” “contribute to marketplace processes,” make a “meaningful contribution to the marketplace of ideas,” “tell the truth” and disclose “timely, relevant, and complete information” in a forthright way (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, p. 9-13).

Conduct consistent with my value of family:

10.  I will always make my family my number one priority. I will bring them joy and derive great joy from my relationships with them.

Explanation: No matter what else is going on in my life, my highest obligation will always be to my family. This is my rule, and my ethical decisions will follow it. I do however understand that not everyone lives their lives according to this rule, and I will not view them as immoral for breaking it. It is because my family and I have a very special relationship that I am comfortable making this strong commitment to them. My happiness comes from making my family happy, and I know that they feel the same way about me. I have very strong faith in my family because I know that no matter what happens in my life, they will have my back. Taking actions to support them, visit them, talk on the phone regularly with them and be an overall presence in their lives is more important to me than anything else.

I plan on waiting to start my own family until after I have a well-established a communications career, financial security and several “childless” years with my husband under my belt. When I do have children, they will take priority over my career and recalculate my relationship with my husband. It is important to me that I wait to have children until I can take a true vow of selflessness. 

11.  I will view my life as a gift and be grateful for it and my circumstances each and every day.

Explanation: God has given me the best possible family and life for which I could ever ask. I have been blessed with an extremely comfortable life, and I realize that this is not the norm. For this reason, I am thankful for what I have been given every day, and I try to use my privilege to improve my community through service and donations when possible.

Conduct consistent with my value of ambition:

12.  I will be optimistic and look for a larger purpose behind my actions.

Explanation: Since I am only beginning my career as a communications professional, my work may at times feel tedious and unimportant. Only when I strive to understand where my daily tasks fit in with my team’s larger communications strategy for our client can I realize my importance to my team and my client. More importantly, by looking at the big picture, it becomes clear how important the communication profession is to educating society and making information flow freely. With this optimistic insight, I am certain that I have chosen the best profession for me and satisfied that I have the opportunity to make a difference for society.

Another overarching purpose for my professional work is to achieve a comfortable and nurturing lifestyle for myself and my family. While I refuse to compromise my other values to achieve wealth and am disinterested in the status that comes with wealth, affluence serves as a motivator in my professional life for two reasons.  First, it is a symbol of professional success, and a reward for years of hard work. Second, I dream of one day giving my children everything that my parents gave and continue to give me, including a nice house with a big yard in a safe neighborhood, a vacation home on the water, and a huge investment in my future. While the possible consequences of my work, like promotion and wealth, should not impact my decisions in ethical dilemmas, it is good practice to consider my professional goals and future to stay focused and hungry in my career. 

My Code and the Real World

As a public relations professional, I plan on joining the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-NCC). It was PRSA’s code of ethics that originally sparked my interest in joining this society. After analyzing several professional codes relating to the public relations, communications and marketing industries, I found PRSA’s code to be most consistent with my own code of ethics. The purpose of PRSA’s code is to “anticipate and accommodate, by precedent, ethical challenges that may arise” for its members (PRSA, 2000, p.1). Resolving these ethical challenges is so important to PRSA members because “the level of public trust PRSA members seek, as we serve the public good, means we have taken on a special obligation to operate ethically” (PRSA, 2000, p. 1). This statement of improving society through the delivery of trustworthy communications is directly in line with my motive for pursuing a career in public relations.

 I fully support all six of PRSA’s specifically-defined core values: advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness (PRSA, 2000). I am especially impressed by PRSA’s explanations of advocacy, expertise, independence and loyalty because they emphasize key provisions addressed in my own code of ethics. These include providing “a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts and viewpoints to aid informed public debate,” advancing the profession “through continued professional development, research and education,” providing “objective counsel” to our clients, being “accountable for our actions” and “honoring our obligation to serve to public interest” (PRSA, 2000, p. 1-2). In comparison with the other codes that I analyzed, PRSA’s code of ethics is unique for its commitment to enhancing the profession and its discussion of competence (PRSA, 2000). According to my own code of conduct, I will enhance the reputation of this profession through my own commitment to continued improvement, and will hold myself to high standards of competence. My personal code promotes actions that are extremely consistent with PRSA’s code provisions, like contributing to the free flow of information and avoiding situations “that put one’s personal or professional interests in conflict with society’s interests” (PRSA, 2000, p. 3).


My personal code of ethics will guide my resolution of ethical dilemmas. It is consistent with my employer’s code of ethics as well as the code of ethics of a professional organization that I hope to join in the near future. Since my code of conduct is based on values that have been ingrained in me by my parents and educational institutions, it should not be especially hard for me to follow. However, as I continue to grow personally and professionally and as I encounter new ethical dilemmas that cannot be resolved according to my code, I will revise and expand upon this document.


Collegiate School. (n.d.) Mission & values. Retrieved July 9, 2010, from http://www.collegiate- va.org/podium/default.aspx?t=22118

Fitzpatrick, K., & Bronstein, C. (Eds.). (2006). Ethics in public relations: Responsible advocacy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Georgetown University. (n.d.) Ethos statement. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from    http://studentconduct.georgetown.edu/ethos/

Gower, K. K. (2008). Doing the right thing. In Legal and ethical considerations for public relations (pp. 1-23). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Parsons, P. J. (2008). Ethics in public relations: A guide to best practice (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page Limited.

Public Relations Society of America. (2000). PRSA member code of ethics. New York, NY: Author.

Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, T., & Meyer, M. J. (1996). Thinking ethically: A framework for moral decision making. Issues in Ethics 7(1). Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ ethics/practicing/decision/thinking.html

Washington and Lee University. (n.d.) The Honor System. Retrieved July 17, 2010 from http://www.wlu.edu/x34.xml

Marcel Proust, Ladies and Gentlemen

A best friend – she’s about to start getting her counseling degree in marriage and family therapy – and I were recently discussing relationships gone wrong. We concluded that people often exist to you in the way you experienced them, even if that’s not truly the person they are.

She just read this quote in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way and found it highly relevant to our conversation:

We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds, those ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end, they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice, it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen…In this way we are able to pack a person full of the attributes we so desire- we fall in love with our own creation.

I think that we do this subconsciously.  Deep down, we know what we want, and we fill certain people with those ideas, even if we can’t always put it into words what those ideas are.

Here is another good, quick read about how subconscious forces play a role in our relationships (and the decay of them.) In the article, Srinivasan Pillay writes:

A recent study in the journal Psychological Science has shown that the earliest signs of “relationship decay” may be entirely outside of our conscious awareness. We may either be unaware, unable or even unwilling to report these feelings when they first begin to manifest.

The study also found that if your subconscious reaction to your partner was positive, then you were likely to stay together, whereas if it was negative, you were likely to break up. The interesting finding here is that staying together or breaking up had little to do with conscious reports of how the relationship was going. The subconscious reactions were more powerful in determining whether you stay with someone or leave than reporting that you felt satisfied with the relationship, or even acknowledging being engaged in a hostile conflict.

Pretty interesting stuff for us psych nerds to think about with regards to past and present relationships. Keep checking out the “Living” tab of Huffington Post for interesting applications of psychological science to everyday life. There’s a great social networking aspect (with recent upgrades) to the site too! Happy over-analyzing and sharing!

Two Wednesdays ago, I headed over to Ogilvy PR Worldwide in DC to hear Jared Cohen, a member of the State Department’s Policy and Planning Staff, discuss social media and 21st century Statecraft. You can hear the speech/read the transcript for yourself here. Or, you can check-out my takeaways below.

Like many people, I use Facebook and Twitter as fun tools to keep in touch with my best friends and share articles of interest. But the impact of these tools can be much stronger in other contexts. Digital connections empower groups of people, both good and evil. For example, Afghanistan prisoners have used cell phones to coordinate an uprising from inside their jail cells. On the other hand, digital technology has given voices to those silenced by political oppression or chaos in the wake of a natural disaster.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at social media’s recent role in helping out Haiti or think back to the June 2009 election protests in Iran. Cohen recognized that Twitter was acting as an important medium through which Iranians could voice discontent and organize protests. Thus, he contacted Twitter to ask them to delay scheduled maintenance of its global network during the protests. Check out this video to remember how social media connected the world to this event in a way never seen before.

The world’s governments also recognize the power that comes from being connected. Corrupt governments fear the empowerment of their citizens, so they rely on censorship to maintain control. But people will always find a way to communicate, even if it’s by good-old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Since communication is inevitable in today’s world, Cohen takes a “technopragmatist” approach to the internet and its related technologies:

The reality is whether we like it or not from a policy standpoint…all these tools are being put out on the public domain. From a government standpoint, we have two options: We can fear we can’t control it and not try to influence it. And by the way, if we don’t try to influence it, all that does is give greater space to hostile actors who seek to use technology for nefarious purposes. Or we ca recognize that the 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak, recognize we can’t control it, but we can influence it and there is no better time to influence it when access is where it is today.

Cohen plans to influence the use of technology by reaching out to the experts of innovations and local contexts, private sector companies and civil society organizations, respectively. By melding their knowledge together, he thinks they can unlock the power of digital communications and social media in a positive way.

Next week, I’ll be attending a conversation with Knight Fellows at the International Center for Journalists.  The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition.  The Knight Fellows are working on new mobile and online technologies in an attempt to deliver the work of professional and citizen journalists to the remote and underserved communities of the world. By getting these remote communities connected, they will give them the power to participate in the world’s conversations.

Garrett Graff’s 2007 The First Campaign asked this question about the 2008 presidential campaign: Will the two major parties seize the moment and run the first campaign of the new era, or will they run the last campaign all over again?

Clearly, Obama ran the first campaign. His online campaign for change was a grassroots movement on steroids. It took political campaigns to a new era by showing “what Web 2.0 means for Campaigning 3.0 (Graff, p. 267). It even earned him Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year. Businesses are also in “campaigns” with consumers, and corporations like Conde Nast  are already trying to capitalize on Obama’s digital lessons.

I wonder how the Supreme Court’s Citizen United vs. The Federal Election Commission will impact the 2012 campaign. Will corporations invest more heavily in supporting candidate’s online campaigns or launching their own? Will candidates lose control of their messaging, online and offline? Or will the FEC rewrite their rules to stop corporations and unions from working with campaigns they favor in planning their messages.

Michael Turk, who was in charge of Internet strategy for President Bush’s 2004 campaign, has accused the GOP of failing to believe that “people will up and participate if they are invited to do so” (Graff, p.258). After the 2008 loss, Obama’s prospective 2012 Republican rivals Republicans are already changing their tune and investing heavily to build supportive online communities. Will their efforts pay off?

It is difficult to make these predictions when technologies and social media’s influence are evolving so rapidly. Back in 2007, even experts were misjudging when political figures would adopt the internet.  For example, blogging pioneer Henry Copeland forecasted that the team who won the 2008 Presidential election would have run an “old-school fuddy-duddy campaign” (Graff, p.254).

In this article, Michael Silberman explains:

We can expect to see even more impressive integrations of tried and true organizing strategies with new technologies that we can’t even imagine. In 2012, millions more people will have access to broadband, and no one really knows how they will be spending their time online.

New Web 2.0 platforms are certainly creating new options for Campaigning 3.0. For example, foursquare users can easily notify their networks when they are volunteering for campaigns, and campaign offices can provide supporters with increased recognition.

But in spite of these changes, the key to winning the 2012 election online will still be understanding that “the internet isn’t an end to itself but merely a means to an end- a chance to pull people in and get them involved in the political process” (Graff, p. 275-276). Candidates who launch social media campaigns to simply “build community” will fail. Candidates’ success will rely on their ability to establish a focused message that is simple, consistent, and relevant. Unless online community members understand their mission, they will not be able to take advantage of fancy social media tools to accomplish it.

I had never read a military blog (milblog) before today. I have a hard enough time trying to keep up to date on the happenings of the war (and make sense of them.) When I started poking around the milblogosphere this afternoon, I had no idea that I would become engrossed in this activity for a solid four hours. Only class could pull me away from my computer, and even then I was late!

After my investigation, my perception of the war is already less abstract. While I still haven’t formulated my opinion, I can already tell that spending more time in this blogosphere would help me shape justified attitudes towards the war. Perhaps even more importantly, it would expose me to differing viewpoints and allow me to better understand those perspectives.

To develop and understand war policy, all sides of the story certainly need to be heard. I suggest starting with a daily snapshot of the top milblogs at milblogging.com. Check out milblogging.com’s blog’s profiles to see which ones might interest you from the get-go.  From there, it’s almost impossible not to get lost stumbling from page to page. It seems like everyone (including parents, wives, and children of the enlisted) involved in the war has an interesting story to tell. While many did stop posting to their blogs after the U.S. Army ordered soldiers to follow new rules in April 2007, this blogosphere is still incredibly active. Milblog’s have a wide variety of followers. Hollywood Refugee, for example, was angered when Kaboom was shut down for failure to properly vet a post in accordance with the new rules. There is some evidence that the U.S. military is trying to re-engage soldiers in the blogosphere. Check out the highlights from 5th Annual Milblog Conference in Arlington, VA two weekends ago (I wish I had known about this earlier!) Below is a video of General David Patreous’ opening remarks.

I read Baghdad Burning’s last post about self-identification as a refugee, and it made me want to read the book. Army of Dude’s The Real Deal post was also eye-opening, and I liked the author’s use of pictures to bring his point home. From there, I decided to search for more photo essays and was introduced to the world of Michael Yon. I also liked Wings over Iraq, Afghanistan without a Clue, Stormbringer, and The Sandbox. Does anyone have any other suggestions for me?

Finally, the milblogosphere was abuzz about the leaked video (Collateral Murder) of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that claimed the lives of two Reuters employees. Be sure to watch the entire video. Do you think it’s too biased? Milbloggers certainly had a lot to say about government transparency, war tactics and the risk of on-assignment journalism. The NY Time’s At War blog also did a fantastic job of rounding up different milbloggers’ reactions to the video’s release. This situation reminds me of the conflict over Kevin Site’s video of a soldier shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi.  It’s strange how history repeats itself.

After my explorations into the milblogosphere this afternoon, I can already say that I’m a big fan of its transparency. I’ll definitely continue to follow this online community beyond Social Media class.

Starbucks’ Promoted Tweet

At its first ever Developer Conference last week, Twitter announced the rolling out of its first phase of Promoted Tweets.   This blog post does a good job of breaking down Promoted Tweets as “tweets that are raised in value or importance as an element of a targeted marketing campaign.” Basically, when Twitter users conduct searches that match the keywords paid for by Twitter’s hand-selected advertising partners, those advertisers’ promoted tweets will appear at the top of the users’ search results. These Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as such, so there is no attempt to convince users that it just happens to be the top search result. Click here for more details about the Promoted Tweets platform.

In the later phases of this ad platform, Twitter will algorithmically assign the most effective Promoted Tweets to your stream. This targeting will be based on what you tweet about and who you follow. Only time will tell how well Twitter can read into your real-time Twitter existence and determine which Promoted Tweets will resonate with you the most. For example, if you have been tweeting up a storm about the Fourth of July, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a Promoted Tweet from Virgin America on holiday fare discounts. Twitter also plans to eventually allow third party Twitter clients (TweetDeck, twhirl, TwitterBerry and Tweetie) to integrate Promoted Tweets, with the app developer receiving a cut of the revenue. Ultimately, Twitter could syndicate results to Google or Bing, though no deal is close to making that happen.

As social media angel investor David Pell hypothesizes, the Promoted Tweets that Twitter chooses for us could be a real wake-up call! I already get a kick out of the personalized ads that show alongside Facebook window (usually a strange mix of cat-related links, online psychology grad schools, and sorority gear.) I’m also on David’s side in terms of the intrusiveness (well, the lack thereof) of the Promoted Tweets that will eventually show up in my stream. I already have all the aspects of my life smashed together on Twitter- see my previous post. So who cares if a few highly targeted ads show up? I’d rather get tweets that don’t read like ads than spam emails that clutter my inbox and don’t “disappear” unless I delete them!

I think the Promoted Tweets platform is an incredibly reasonable response to “how can Twitter make money?” and “how can ads be brought into the Twittersphere?” Twitter is being especially patient in introducing this platform because the company’s founders refuse to destroy the experience that its users have grown to appreciate. While 42% of users are concerned that Promoted Tweets will spam their Twitter search results and streams, I think that these worries are completely unjustified. In my opinion, Promoted Tweets will be valuable to both Twitter’s advertising partners as well as its users. Why?  Make sure to check these in-depth reports by Ad Age and NY Times– both of these articles helped me to come to the following conclusions:

–          FOCUS ON MARKETS AS CONVERSATIONS– In planning this ad platform, Twitter has been focused on enhancing “the conversations that companies are already having with their customers on Twitter,” said Twitter COO Dick Costolo. Therefore, twitter hand-picked initial advertising partners, including Starbucks, Bravo, and Virgin America, that were already heavily engaged on Twitter. Starbucks could start a conversation with the Promoted Tweet “Tell us something a barista did to make your day?” Starbucks could buy keywords to keep this question at the top of a search that turns up the Promoted Tweet. Click here to learn more about how why Virgin America was chosen as an advertising partner and how the company is already using its Promoted Tweets- it’s very insightful.

–          QUICK PROFITABILITY IS NOT THE GOAL– In fact, Twitter will roll out the Promoted Tweets platform slowly over the course of a year and gauge users’ responses.  The last thing Twitter wants to do alienate users by forcing a new model on them. That’s why Twitter will test and test and test Promoted Tweets and watch how they perform in search results and then in streams.

–          ONE -AD-PER-SEARCH RULE– While Google, Bing and Yahoo display many search-related ads at a time, Twitter will only ever display one Promoted Tweet at the top of your search results.

–          RESONANCE AS A PERFORMANCE MODEL AND EVENTUALLY A PRICING METRIC– Resonance is impact of the Promoted Tweet based on how much a tweet is passed around, how much a tweet is marked as a favorite or how often a user clicks through a posted link. Ads that perform well will stay in search results and advertisers will pay for the search key words that bring up that ad on a cost-per-thousand basis. Ads that don’t rise above the resonance score of a typical tweet from a marketer will be removed and advertisers will not have to pay for them. Ultimately, Twitter plans to charge advertisers for Promoted Tweets based on their resonance in comparison to a standard marketing tweet.

That being said, can’t we all just give Promoted Tweets a chance?

While I love the DC area, finding housing here is quite a pain. I check Craigslist almost every hour, but hardly any 3-4 bedroom houses are listed with July start dates. With a move-out date looming ahead of us, searching for a new rental in DC has not been easy. We currently live in Arlington (check out this rap video about the city), but want to move across the key bridge into Glover Park come July. Yes, some might call us “typical”, but I’m excited to move into a neighborhood that is “bustling without compromising its boringness.”  From this blog, it seems like nothing too newsworthy happens in Glover Park, and I’m just fine with that. What I’m really looking forward to is taking advantage of this local farmer’s market (even if it’s just to meet the neighborhood dogs),  looking out my window to see these “exotic” creatures patrolling the lawn, jogging (okay, power walking) around tree-lined streets, cooking out with young (and hopefully male) neighbors, and strolling to the area bars. My roommates will be especially excited to move closer to Gin and Tonic, their favorite Thursday night spot. They can likely be spotted in this video dancing to The Dolla Crew’s performance.  One of these hip-hopsters is actually a W&L ’06 grad. And now I digress…

Pole 5 in Lexington, VA aka Home Sweet Home

Suddenly, I realize how easy I had it living in Lexington, VA while attending W&L.  By the spring of my freshmen year, I was already set to live in the sorority house for sophomore year and at a coveted “Pole House” with five best friends for junior and senior years.  I miss having everything planned out so far in advance.

Pole 5's porch looking out on the Maury

 I also miss actually living in that coveted Pole House, better known as Pole 5. It’s second from the left in this satellite picture. As you can see, there are six of these houses on stilts (hence the name “Pole Houses”) lined up on a massive lawn overlooking the Maury River.  Each has its own huge deck looking out onto the water. Each has six similarly-sized large bedrooms and three identical bathrooms. Each has unlimited parking in the wide gravel communal driveway behind it. That’s right- parking was NEVER a problem. One hundred cars could pack into that driveway during Derby Days, which was always held on the Pole Houses’ lawn during spring term, and everyone would find a way to fit.  Students could even drive their cars onto the lawn so that they could blast their music while cooling off on our rope swing.  Traveler, W&L’s free sober ride bus system, actually had a regular pick-up/drop-off point in front of Pole 5. This place was actually our little slice of heaven.

Now, searching for rental s in DC, we are faced with questionable basement apartments, bedroom sizes that vary greatly, no off-street parking, the hassle of getting DC plates, and lease dates that don’t match up perfectly with our own schedules. We are no longer competing with other girls in our sorority to get the Pole 5 lease from the senior girls who are passing it down. Now, we are actually having to pit our credit scores (or those of our parents) and blind bids against those of other applicants. And in the end, we will undoubtedly wind up paying more than twice as much as our old Pole 5 rent.

Hanging out by the Maury watching Derby Days '09

 But I guess that’s the price of growing up. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say, we’re not in Lexington anymore. But it’s time for me to get back to browsing Glover Park listings on Craigslist. Wish me luck in our housing search!

On February 5, 2010, Tunisian Blogger Ghodwa Nahrek wrote:

Ammar (the nickname given to the Tunisian censorship apparatus) said that he doesn’t like Nocturnal Thoughts anymore. He prefers afternoon thoughts. Nocturnal Thoughts, the blog of our friend and brother Tarek Kahlaoui, had been censored after more than three years of continuous blogging about interesting and sensitive subjects. In Tunisia, the scissors of censorship acquired new significance. It is no longer a form of oppression and a limit to freedom of expression as it is a medal for the blogger and a certificate from the censor showing the value of a blog and the importance of the subjects it deals with. Congratulations to our friend Tarek and welcome again in the club of censored blogs.

Tunisian censorship of the internet is the rule rather than the exception. Websites that criticize Tunisia’s human rights, such as Amnesty International , Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, the International Freedom of Expression eXchange, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, are blocked. The Tunisian government is also notorious for blocking websites critical of the Ben Ali regime. Even YouTube and Daily Motion have been banned for hosting of videos documenting prison abuse in Tunisia, and pages that are critical of the regime are blocked on international media sources like the New York Times or the BBC.  According to aggregate scores established by Freedom on the Net (the higher the score, the worst the censorship on a scale of 0 to 100), Tunisia and China are tied for second worst censorship in the world (only behind Cuba.)  

The Tunisian blogosphere did not start until 2006, but by August 2008, at least 22 of about 600 active blogs had already been blocked. Blogging was originally used as a form of free speech, but the government quickly began punishing bloggers who addressed topics beyond the “red lines” observed by traditional media in Tunisia. But some bloggers are resilient and choosing to wear their badges of honor for speaking up (and being censored.) It is unclear whether this anti-censorship blog campaign has been squashed, but in 2008, about fifty bloggers would repost deleted or blocked blog posts on new sites- sometimes starting as many as nine blogs to get their message out there in the face of censorship. Others bloggers have come up with more creative ways to write about politics and human rights without being caught.  The blog NormalLand used to be able to discuss Tunisian politics by using a virtual country with a virtual leader, with various government positions being assigned to other Tunisian bloggers, but it is now shut down.  

To learn more about trends in the Tunisian blogosphere (or any other country, for that matter), definitely follow the conversation on Global Voices Online, which rounds out the bloggers around the world and gives you a bird’s eye view of what conversations are going on in blogospheres around the globe. In November 2009, Tunisian bloggers were posting most often about the trial of Fatma Arabicca, the question of French reparations to Tunisia for its past colonization, and the Egypt-Algeria World Cup Match. Over the past two months, the fight against censorship has continued in the blogosphere, and bloggers have begun speaking in English (as opposed to the more common Arabic and French.)  Cyber-activism for student protesters is another trending topic that continues amongst Tunisian bloggers and social media users.

If you want more of an insight into the blogosphere in the Arab world, check out this episode. You’ll get great insights from an Egyptian blogger and a Lebanese blogger (both of whom have been arrested and detained.) It’s interesting to learn how censorship of traditional media impacts the role blogging plays in these states, and how cenorship of digital media varies from state to state!

Throughout the semester, my classmates and I have been bookmarking a lot of Foursquare– related content on our delicious links page.  Introduced at South by Southwest Interactive Conference 2009, Foursquare and other location-based services were widely used by 2010 conference goers looking to find fellow social media nerds at unofficial parties and add transparency to the quality of events via check-ins and short message reviews. Unfortunately, as one of the only social media nerds out there WITHOUT a Smartphone (potential 23rd birthday present Mom & Dad?), I’m not yet a Foursquare user. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to check out Foursquare’s homepage to search your favorite area venues, read their reviews, and see if you recognize their mayors!  

But Foursquare is definitely more than just a competitive night life game. The site will distribute a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners access to a range of statistics and information on customers who check-in at their venues.  Additionally, a new staff page feature will allow venues to communicate with regular customers who check-in via Foursquare. For example, if a staffer hasn’t seen a “regular” visit in awhile, that staffer can tweet them about a new product to entice him or her back. Tristan Walker, director of business development at Foursquare, expects this feature to help local merchants especially. Here is an interview with Tristan in which he discusses cool ways that brands and businesses have used Foursquare. But even businesses that don’t offer face-to-face social experiences, such as bars and restaurants, can use location-based services to drive traffic and reinforce messaging. Even political campaigns and social causes can benefit from Foursquare- check out Marc Ross’s predictions on how volunteers will now gain recognition for their work.

Now that more venues are offering special deals and rewards to users who check-in, Foursquare is cracking down on cheating. Now, like its competitor Gowalla, Foursquare will use GPS data to verify a user’s actual location. While users will still be able to check-in anywhere (and prior to or after their actual arrival), they will only be rewarded for the check-in if they are at the actual location. And some users take their check-ins VERY seriously- check out this story and find out who was first to check in at the North Pole.  

Foursquare has already partnered with Bravo to turn its reality show celebrities into city curators who recommend venues that users can then check-in at to earn Bravo-themed badges. MTV and VH1 recently announced a similar partnership. They will also be the first media brands to launch Foursquare’s new Celebrity Mode tool, which allows users to friend celebrities and celebrity users to send check-ins to either friends and followers or just their inner-circle friends. It seems that Foursquare is following Twitter’s lead in getting celebrities involved, which could help boost the popularity of the site and help pack the house for future official celebrity appearances. Over the past few days, the Financial Times has finalized a deal with Foursquare to offer mayors of select cafes near London School of Economics, Cass School of Business, Harvard, and Columbia codes for a premium FT.com subscription.  And of course, web apps big and small continue to integrate with Foursquare’s rich local data.

It will certainly be interesting to watch Foursquare’s growth past 500,000 users in the upcoming months. Will location-based services spread beyond early-adopting social media nerds based in prominent cities (similar to how Facebook has spread beyond college students?) Will enough of your inner-ring ever use Foursquare, or will growth beyond your inner-ring make this social media tool too overwhelming (as some say has happened with Twitter)? Perhaps if Foursquare fails to adopt filtering and status-toggles that allow us to limit the notifications we receive, we will turn to Rally Up to meet up and follow our true friends. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, I hope I get a phone that allows me to join in the fun!

Wikipedia has become the “first draft of history.” Just take a look at how the Wikipedia community handled the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. By the end of the first day of the Wikipedia article’s life, it had been edited more than 360 times, by 70 different editors referring to 28 separate sources from news outlets around the web. Wikipedia’s crowdsourcing mentality combined with its easy-to-use, accessible platform to generate an aggregation of event details from multiple sources (such as NY Times, Reuters, and Times of India) in a number of different languages and locations. Wikipedia is especially effective as a breaking news source because articles can be instantaneously created and rapidly updated by anyone (you don’t have to be a reporter in the newsroom!) In fact, the contributors to breaking news articles often interact online as if they are in a virtual newsroom. Also, the list of links at the bottom of the page points readers to more resources regarding specific aspects of the event or different viewpoints taken.  

Let’s face it. When an event is unfolding, people would rather have information that isn’t 100% reliable rather than no information at all. And if an event is important enough, you can be sure that incorrect information will be fixed by the time you refresh your screen. That’s because a crowd of contributors (some of which might band together as a community) quickly assemble during crisis events. As we talked about in class last week, humans are motivated to DO something during a crisis rather than sit around passively absorbing information from other sources. In case you really don’t trust early contributors, Wikipedia released an optional feature last fall (WikiTrust) that color codes every word of the encyclopedia based on the reliability of its author and the length of time it has lasted in the article.

But are the community’s new policies and aggressive management of the site turning off existing members and making it more and more difficult for new members to join? A recent study found that during the first three months of 2009, the English-language version of Wikipedia lost 49,000 editors, compared with a loss of about 4,900 during the same period in 2008. Jimmy Wales says this is not so. Perhaps this is a case of crowd fatigue- thoughts? I’m a little bit surprised that there is not very much information on the West Virginia mining explosion that happened yesterday. While the accident is now mentioned in here and here, it has not been extensively covered by Wikipedia editors as the events unfold. Could it be that the majority of the Wikipedia community lives in large cities and feel more connected to local breaking news?

Last June, Google News began monitoring Wikipedia articles and using them on their site. This was a pivotal change. Finally, the most powerful media company in the world was recognizing Wikipedia’s increasing popularity as a reliable breaking news source. The Huffington Post also recognizes Wikipedia’s importance- it dedicates an entire page to breaking news about Wikipedia. And did you know that there is now a WikiReader? For $99, this gadget allows users to browse all of Wikipedia offline and on-the-go. Why not carry around breaking news in your pocket? Read a review here!

Finally, below is a video that can help you use Wikipedia as a news source by making use of Wikipedia’s watchlist function. This isn’t the most exciting video, but stick with it. It’s a good tutorial if you don’t already have a lot of experience on the editing side of Wikipedia!