By Lauren Champlin…
When I arrived in New Orleans, I wasn’t sure what to except. I had never been to the Gulf Coast and all I knew was what I read and hear in the media — Katrina and the BP Oil Spill. My perception of the region was completely different after spending 10 days on the Gulf Coast. Initially, I thought the area was still a disaster from Katrina in 2005 and, now, covered in oil. What else would I think when that’s all we see in the media?
Now, I am back at home and I know a lot more about reality on the Gulf Coast.
I know just how much the natives care about their land—especially after witnessing Linda Whitlock, President/CEO of Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce, tear up just thinking about the day oil was discovered on Gulf Shore’s beach. The people on the Gulf Coast have been through a lot, but they are determined to work together and rebuild their land. Leaders on the coast state, “We are doing everything possible to get the message out there right now.”
After asking all our speakers what communication lessons they have learned through this disaster, many said they won’t be able to discuss the lessons learned from the BP Oil Spill for about five years. However, John Deveney did state his lesson learned: “[To spread the right message] you need a very proactive strategy to maintain control,” he continued, “You also must be reactive in order to be proactive.” Deveney did just that through a social media campaign to raise tourism in Louisiana.
I feel the approach through social media will benefit tourism in the future. People aren’t getting the truth from traditional media anymore. According to Jeff Pender, political reporter for the Sun Herald in Gulf Port, Miss., reporters felt deadlines when reporting on the spill and experts weren’t available to double check facts.
Unless you visit the area yourself, you can’t possibly know all the facts. I believe the Gulf Coast will recover better than ever because people can focus on trustworthy social media sites, instead of traditional news coverage—which still, five years later, focuses on the disaster left behind after Katrina. According to Herbert J. Malone, Jr., President/CEO of Gulf Shores Tourism, the media focuses on the bad because that’s what people pay attention to. However, if you really want the truth, you must find reliable social media sites, like http://www.thebeachfacts.com, or travel to the source and experience it firsthand!