Recently, being the destitute college intern I am, I found myself in a rather familiar predicament. 11:00 had rolled around yet again, and my stomach was starting to make noises uncomfortably reminiscent of Jabba The Hutt’s awkward, drawn-out asphyxiation in Return of the Jedi. Peeking into my wallet, I was disheartened (but, again, not surprised) to find a grand total of three singles and a month-old receipt from a midnight screening of The Hangover somberly staring back at me. Just as the dismal reality of yet another Starbuck’s Dark Cherry Parfait and cup of water from The Zap-Cooler for lunch was starting to sink in, Susie appeared at my desk.

She proceeded to single-handedly make my day when she offered me a one-way ticket out of Sucky Lunch-ville by asking if I, along with one of our other interns Molly, wanted to join her and Zapwater newbie Kevin Metz for a PRSSA-hosted luncheon at the downtown Maggiano’s location. The subject of the luncheon was going to be how the Obama team re-wrote the book on presidential campaigning with their unprecedented incorporation of social media into their strategy, and was to be hosted by a panel consisting of the two men in charge of running Obama’s online/social media blitz (Michael Organ and Andrew Bleeker), and a top reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business (Greg Hinz).

“Unparalleled insight into what is quickly becoming The Future of PR strategy and free family style portions of Maggiano’s famous meatballs?” I thought to myself. “Count me in!”

While the delicious four course meal beat the heck out of anything I could have gotten with my Washington Triplets, the real gem of the luncheon came from hearing what the panel of industry insiders had to say on the subject of “social media-driven PR.” No matter what side of the political aisle anyone in that room sat on, one couldn’t help being intrigued by the discussion.

They began by saying they view Campaign-Period Obama as “a perfect storm of PR credentials,” citing namely his unique, personable ability to build “a solid communication network infrastructure.” These traits of Obama’s, the panel agreed, allowed the Obama campaign to utilize social media to its fullest potential.

The panel went on to describe the upmost importance of using social media “the right way” to benefit a candidate, cause, business, etc., as opposed to “just to say you use it.”

“Social media should be a tool that will hopefully bring you to the attainment of a goal, and not merely a goal in and of itself,” said Bleeker.

The four of us left the luncheon with both our hunger for quality Italian cooking and curiosity surrounding the Obama campaign’s “secrets” to victory extremely satisfied. The only question then became “what the heck was I going to do about lunch on Wednesday?”

Kevin Kearney