AAD511 Communications Lab

Comparative Research – Sam Johnson & Rikki Poynter

The two people I am going to compare in this communication exercise is Sam Johnson, the creator of The Student Volunteer Academy based in Christchurch NZ, and Rikki Poynter based in America, is the creator of #NoMoreCRAPtions.  I will be assessing the communication channels used, and the targets aimed for. I will also assess how effective each of them was in reaching their target audiences. I will be asking how successful each has been in getting a positive response enabling change for their target audiences? And has the change had a bigger influence than expected?

How they’re similar

  • They both have chosen social justice projects
  • Sam chose to rally and organise young people (two and a half thousand students), who were prepared to help in the clean up of Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes in 2011.
  • Rikki is an advocate for deaf people and is on a mission to get YouTubers to caption their own videos on YouTube instead of the automated captions that have, and still do, dominate YouTube. These automated captions often are out of context and don’t make sense.

The range of communication formats used in each case


Sam Johnson originally wanted to reach as many people in Christchurch as soon as possible when the earthquake hit in 2011,to ask for their help to clean up the badly hit areas. Facebook proved to be a good tool for this goal because of its culture, which encourages its users to share links with friends (and friends of friends), join groups and be exposed to local pages. The increase and diversity in social networking is cited here:

“Texting has consistently been the most popular form of daily communication across all waves of the survey, but instant messaging (e.g. through Whatsapp or Snapchat the number-one conduit for daily communication (75% in 2015). The increasing diversity of social networking sites available in addition to Facebook may also be responsible for the jump in the users who rate these as important in their daily life (from 28% in 2007 to 53% in 2015).”

Smith, Phillipa, Allan Bell, Melissa Miller, and Charles Crawthers. “Internet Trends in NZ 2007 – 2015.” Work Research Institute – AUT. Accessed May 20, 2019. https://workresearch.aut.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/71329/WIPNZtrends-07-15.pdf.

Age statistics – People who use the Internet the most

Area statistics for NZ

Smith, Phillipa, Allan Bell, Melissa Miller, and Charles Crawthers. “Internet Trends in NZ 2007 – 2015.” Work Research Institute – AUT. Accessed May 20, 2019. https://workresearch.aut.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/71329/WIPNZtrends-07-15.pdf.

These statistics prove that Facebook was a very appropriate platform in 2011 for Sam to reach out to the public on. The most popular age group that uses the Internet is 16-39, and generally they tend to be the most fit, strong and able age group. Also, people who live in main cities tend to use the Internet more.

The University of Canterbury

Sam was initially aiming to gather students from his university (The University of Canterbury).  He achieved this by creating his page and sharing it to his friends and family (assumably a lot of his friends attended his university or lived in the Christchurch area) then this extended to his friends sharing to their friends, and his family sharing with other families,and so on.

“He created a facebook page called “The Student Base for Earthquake Clean Up” targeted to any residential people to help with non life threatening tasks, in particular removing liquefaction around Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake.”   Two and a half thousand students contributed in the cleanup, and from this endeavor, The University of Canterbury teamed up with Sam to create the Student Volunteer Army.

“The mass deployment of volunteering, dubbed ‘Battalions’, was the initial focus …. They were allocated to the worst affected areas of Christchurch via charter buses. Squadrons filled a similar role, except instead of students combing the streets and methodically searching for work, the squadrons responded to requests from individuals for assistance that came via the website, call center, and partnerships with Civil Defence and city councils. Up to 450 car loads of students were allocated via this system, using a mix of software, texting, and Google mapping. Street teams managed volunteer engagement for various organizations including multiple government departments, Civil Defence, and Christchurch City Council.”

“Student Volunteer Army.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified February 27, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_Volunteer_Army.

Civil Defence/Christchurch City Council

Sam directly communicated with members of the Civil Defense team, to ascertain what areas needed the most help. This was very quick and efficient.

After the earthquake Sam went on to work on other projects, include hosting discos for local elderly residents, cleaning beaches of rubbish, testing tsunami sirens, compiling packs for refugee families, and making blankets and books for foster children. He acts as a mentor at a primary school teaching them about voluntary work.

Henkin, Therese. “403 Forbidden.” 403 Forbidden. Last modified November 8, 2018. https://www.times.co.nz/news/student-volunteer-army-primary-school-programme-launches-today/.

Google. “Not Found.” UNdata. Accessed May 22, 2019. http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=POP&f=tableCode%3A240.

One of the Projects Sam went on to do after the Christchurch event: “ We’re doing a project right now in Ouruhia Domain in Christchurch. There’s about $35,000 to plant 3000 trees, then monitor and look after them for five years. We proposed to contract a team of locals to look after that area, do the weeding, do the things they’d like to do, with professional supervision from Citycare who can oversee what happens.”

Whittaker, Johnathan. “Sam Johnson – Looking for Local Heroes.” Local Government Magazine. Last modified September 6, 2018. https://localgovernmentmag.co.nz/lg-magazine/communities_lg/sam-johnson-looking-for-local-heroes/.

 Sam Johnson was certainly a hero in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. His quick thinking and call to action, and the ability to inspire and mobilise a large group of people to do a arduous, but necessary job for his community has enabled him to go on and mentor children in primary schools. His influence has spread to how the world will cope with the increase in natural disasters.

Rikki Poynter

Rikki is an advocate of the Deaf community as well as the LGBTQ community. She travels around America giving talks about these matters and also speaks to issues in mental illness and the effects of child abuse. The campaign # NoMoreCRAPtions is the main focus of this examination of how to promote a service. The issue of YouTube using automatic captions, which proved incomprehensible in translation, is the issue Ricky has taken up.

“Although YouTube attempted to solve this accessibility problem through creating a computer program to turn the sound of their videos into closed captioned text, Poynter notes that the program was not effective enough and often ended up leaving her even more confused about what was said in the video.

“When I kept looking at the automatic craptions (yeah, we call it that), it made me mad seeing that. How are we supposed to know what’s being said? Videos about concealers had auto craptions that wrote about zebras. Two completely different subjects!” Rikki Said.

Poynter began to raise awareness for her ideas by posting a video call to action to content creators on the site entitled “YouTubers, You Need To Close Caption Your Videos”. In the video, Poynter asks the content creators themselves to try and produce transcripts for the audio of their videos in order to make the videos more inclusive for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

The video was well received. Soon after posting, other YouTubers began creating a larger audience for the message by mentioning Rikki and her cause in their own videos. One such YouTuber—Tyler Oakley—garnered nearly two million views for his support of Rikki and her cause. Furthermore, Lilly Singh (Superwoman) got inspired by Rikki and started captioning her videos. Outside of YouTube, the video garnered features in a number of media outlets, including BBC, ABC, and Huffington Post among others.

In September Rikki launched a new campaign entitled #NoMoreCraptions, functioning as another push for inclusion. By continuing to encourage video creators to not only add captions but to add them correctly, Rikki hopes to accelerate the success of #NoMoreCraptions. In addition, Rikki’s online presence has helped her develop offline advocacy ranging from speeches to conventions of YouTubers at VidCon to policy conversations with Google.”

Digitally Connected. “Rikki Poynter.” Digitally Connected | Towards a Global Community of Knowledge and Practice Around Children, Youth, and Digital Media. Accessed May 22, 2019. http://www.digitallyconnected.org/digital-champions-empowering-young-people-with-disabilities/rikki-poynter/.

Communication Strategies

The #Hashtag

Rikki came up with a witty signature hashtag to spread across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms.

A hashtag can be used on many platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube etc and is used as a category to put your upload in if you choose to do so. This means your content would be shared with others who also upload in or view that particular hashtag. This is used as a way for artists, influencers, writers etc to get there work out there to lots of people.

Social Platforms

  • YouTube – YouTube is Rikki’s most popular platform currently at 85,565 subscribers.

“Rikki Poynter YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics.” YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, & Instagram Statistics – SocialBlade.com. Accessed May 22, 2019. https://socialblade.com/youtube/user/rikkipoynter.

On the left is her subscriber count rate (both in black writing) and on the right is her video views from the past week.

  • Facebook – 14,474 likes. RIkki keeps her Facebook well updated but her posts don’t seem to reach her audience as much as her youtube videos do.
  • Instagram – 8,764 followers. Instagram is clearly her least effective platform along with Twitch.

Target Audience


This campaign was created in hope to convince YouTubers to write closed captions for their videos, meaning individually witten captions rather than automated captions.

YouTube’s popularity in 2016, the time Rikki’s campaign was launched:

DMO, Statista. Statista. 2018. http://www.businessofapps.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/youtube_monthly_active_user_by_geo_2016.png.

“World Wide Hearing Loss: Stats from Around the World.” Audicus. Last modified March 12, 2019. https://www.audicus.com/world-wide-hearing-loss-stats-from-around-the-world/.

Originally, Rikki targeted her campaign towards American YouTubers and youth, but as the statistics reveal the audience on Youtube is surprisingly, largely dominated by the older age brackets, who watch YouTube for educational purposes, podcasts and music. Therefore Rikkis campaign is ultimately (if successful)  going to improve the lives of a significant amount of people worldwide. Not only her target audience will have been reached but also another surprising group emerged in the statistics of YouTube usage. This group is the sixty five plus group which is also a group that suffers significant hearing loss.

“The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is one of a few national surveys that regularly collects data identifying the American population of persons with hearing loss or deafness. …. More than half of all persons with hearing loss or deafness are 65 years or older and less than 4% are under 18 years of age.”

Mitchell, Ross E. “How Many Deaf People Are There in the United States? Estimates From the Survey of Income and Program Participation.” OUP Academic. Last modified September 21, 2005. https://doi.org/10.1093/deafed/enj004.

“Over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – has disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children). It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people – or one in every ten people – will have disabling hearing loss.”

“Deafness and Hearing Loss.” WHO | World Health Organization. Last modified March 20, 2019. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss.

These statistics further support how this campaign will also impact elderly people as well as youth. Rikki’s potential to enhance a lot of people’s lives in a positive way (by improving communication) seems limitless in its potential to inspire others to do the same with their captions on YouTube.

If you’d like to read more about Rikki, head over to her blog: http://www.rikkipoynter.com/

If you’d like to read more about Sam, head over to his website: https://sva.org.nz/our-team/


This blog is part of the NMIT Blog Network. The articles and comments in this blog are the opinion of the authors and not necessarily those of NMIT.