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THE MONITOR

  • Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

Hamilton Hired Crisis PR Firm to Measure Reputational Damage After Activism

RUDD CENTER, Communications & Marketing Office – Social media activism normally isn’t a make or break in social movements, but at a small, striving school like Hamilton, perception is everything. At least as early as February 2022, Hamilton College hired a public relations data firm, Campus Sonar, in response to “several complex issues resulting in campus-wide online activism.” Hamilton hoped “to understand the extent of these negative conversations so they could make data-informed adjustments to their strategy,” according to the firm’s website. After a four-month study of “online conversation,” Hamilton “better understood the scope, drivers, and context of this challenging situation” to “refine their social media strategy, addressing previously existing gaps and developing a new strategy around Instagram use.” 


"What we learned significantly reframed our understanding of how Instagram can be used for social activism,” Tim O’Keeffe, Hamilton’s Senior Director of Marketing & Analytics said in a testimonial posted on Campus Sonar’s website. “We’re thinking harder about when and how to share 'news' on Instagram. On there and other social platforms, we ask if it can spur constructive dialogue instead of appearing like the institution is just talking to our audiences and not with them.”


Campus Sonar’s page says Hamilton leaders wanted to “Understand the extent of the conversation and evaluate reputational damage” and “Monitor ongoing conversation around these issues.” They also hoped to compare themselves to peer institutions, “Re-engage with audiences in ways that supported their mission,” and develop new platform-specific content strategies. Campus Sonar lists Hamilton as a case study for “Campus Crisis Management” and “Customized Social Listening.”


While the study did not cite specifics, some events that sparked strong campus responses around the time the Campus Sonar webpage was first archived include a disastrous 2020 Black Lives Matter statement and President David Wippman’s following exclusion of racial justice advocates from policy advising which spurred thousands of critical engagements from community members, far-right targeting of a faculty member for critical scholarship, and sporadic resistance from students of color to being tokenized in posts. Community advocates would often use the tags #GetScrolled, a marketing slogan Hamilton used to aggregate media on its site, and #BecauseHamilton, the active College capital campaign at the time. Many campus activists have long accused the College of being more concerned about its public image than authentically responding to their concerns.


The crisis measurement metrics used by Campus Sonar include “Crisis Conversation Volume,” “Crisis Share of Voice,” “Sentiment,” “Top Topics,” “Media Mention Volume,” and “Individual Mention Volume,” all defined on their website.


Hamilton’s communications office has been without a Vice President since January after Melissa Richards departed to be Vice President and Chief of Staff to President Jay M. Bernhardt at Emerson College in Boston. Bernhardt recently supported police involvement that led to the brutal arrest of 118 peaceful pro-Palestine demonstrators on campus. Emerson’s student government voted unanimously for his resignation last week.


The Communications & Marketing Office was unavailable to comment for this article.

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2 commentaires


Lawrence Van Garrett
Lawrence Van Garrett
01 mai

lol. Peaceful protestors don’t get arrested.

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Nevaeh Gutierrez
Nevaeh Gutierrez
01 mai
En réponse à

It has become abundantly clear that the US is willing to wage an all out war against anyone (yes that includes peaceful protestors) who dare dissent to the capitalist war machine. Students have no tear gas, no weapons, no fireworks unlike the Zionist counter protests and the National Guard and police. Friend, remind me where was this level of police presence during Uvalde?

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