Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Time to get Tweeting?

Although I have been aware of Twitter for quite some time (who hasn't?), I have to admit that my eventual signing up was done with a certain sense of reluctance. I just didn't see the point. For me a social network should work like Facebook, provide a means to communicate with my friends, and since very few of my friends are active on Twitter, it didn't really appeal. However, as it was a compulsory aspect of the Digital Media module, I took the plunge and I have to admit I am slowly coming round to the idea. Below are my views of Twitter, and the ways in which it can be effectively used in public relations.

My Experience
There are numerous 'how to' texts and articles, both online and in print, aimed at educating novices in the art of tweeting. I decided, however, to jump right in (how hard can it be?) and I was surprised as to how straight forward it was to operate, admittedly on the most basic level.

I began by following a few of the bigger PR and marketing companies that I was interested in, and then added some of the organisations that were suggested to me by Twitter. Then, this is my favourite part, the rewards started flowing in; simply for clicking the 'follow' button people were willing to give me free stuff. Excellent! I didn't even read most of the tweets but I was given – to name but a few – an ebook, a subscription to a PR e-zine , and (best of all) a free months subscription to marketing magazine The Drum. I shamelessly tweeted about how much I was enjoying the magazine, hoping for another free month, but to no avail.

It was clear, however, that Twitter was about more than just getting free stuff. As I mentioned, I have been aware of the hype surrounding Twitter for some time and I wanted to understand what made it so special: as far as I could see it was just an endless stream of people sharing content and opinion. I couldn't, and actually still can't, understand how anyone can read every tweet by every account that they follow – some people are following literally thousands of accounts and I can't keep up with just over a hundred. Obviously re-tweets and comments indicate that a tweet has been read but there must be a considerable amount of people who miss out on tweets all together.

For me Twitter is proving to be something of a learning curve, one that I am still very much on. Although I still have a lot to learn, I can appreciate how Twitter could be a useful tool in public relations. Below are some suggestions of how Twitter can be used in a professional capacity.

Twitter and PR
Writing for Mashable, PR writer Heather Whaling, defines some of the main opportunities for PR on Twitter as being: connecting with journalists, crisis communications, and providing an insight into the organisation.

Connecting with journalists
Twitter is a public platform with accessible content making it a journalists 'go-to' site for real time reporting and source interaction.

A US study, conducted by Cision and Don Bates at The George Washington University in 2010, found that half of all journalists use Twitter when sourcing and researching stories. This provides opportunity for practitioners to build relationships with journalists by following them, thus providing a platform for pitching stories directly. However, this is an area where top British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy believes that public relations practitioners are not using to its full potential.

“I don't think PRs really make use of Twitter as well as they should. Maybe I'm not following the right people, but I can't think of an example when I have been contacted by a PR person on Twitter about something I have then wanted to cover, which is probably very revealing.”

Krishan Guru-Murthy (2011)

Crisis Communications
Twitter allows PR professionals the opportunity to monitor, control, and provide information during a crisis. This requires constant monitoring of search terms, frequent updates, and communicating the facts without fuelling speculation.

One recent example of Twitter being used during a major crisis was at the Japanese nuclear plants which were damaged by the tsunami in March. In response to world-wide interest and speculation Tokyo Electric Power Company created a Twitter account which gained 190, 000 followers in less than a day. The Twitter account was used to keep Japanese residents, and the rest of the world, informed as the situation deteriorated. In addition to providing information, the Twitter stream was also used to provide information on power blackouts and radiation leaks.

This demonstrates how, in times of crisis, people have come to see Twitter as a real-time source of information. PR practitioners should take note and realise the potential of Twitter during an organisational crisis.

Organisational Insight
Twitter provides an opportunity for PR practitioners to bring the brands and organisations that they work with to life. This provides a platform for sharing information on developments, new products, and discussions.

However, as is pointed out by blogger Chris Pirillo, PR practitioners who are using Twitter to represent a brand have to learn the difference between talking at someone and talking with them. This is crucial, no one wants to follow a brand that is continually tweeting meaningless links without really engaging with their followers. Pirillo claims:

“If you aren't opening a real dialogue with your patrons you are missing the entire point”.

This is something that British organisations should take note of. Internet firm Auros carried out a study which measured the responsiveness of 25 of the UK's top retailers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and branded blogs. Researchers asked 25 retailers direct questions through their Twitter accounts; 75% of the retailers failed to respond.

I think that, although my personal experience was not terribly interesting, Twitter is definitely a tool that should be utilised by PR practitioners. A platform which provides real-time information and opinion should not be ignored within the profession. It would appear, however, that there is still some way to go before PR can be said to have fully embraced Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter. 


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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Using Mobile Technologies at PR Events

The rise of mobile internet, which has been boosted in recent years by the introduction of smartphones such as Blackberry and iphone, has drastically effected the way in which people access information and communicate. Contrary to common perception, the term mobile technology is not limited to mobile telephones, it also refers to tablets and laptops.

In an article for PR Week, PR writer Arun Sudhaman, outlines some of the main mobile technologies as being: apps, location-based services and augmented reality. This post suggests some ways in which these mobile technologies can be used in public relations events.

Mobile Applications
Creating a mobile application for your event can provide a fun and practical way to update attendees, and also to encourage interest and involvement before and after the event. Below are just some of the ways in which a mobile application can make your event come to life.

Schedule: providing attendees with a full schedule of events allows them to plan their time at the event effectively. This can also provide any last minute changes to the schedule or the provision of additional events.

Exhibitor Listings: this allows attendees to see a full list of exhibitors, and also provides exhibitors with an additional platform to provide additional information.

Speaker Information: providing additional information and biographies of speakers help to create a buzz before then event, and can also contribute to keeping the conversation going afterwards.

Interactive Floor Plan: this can help visitors to find their way around the event, and fully showcase the exhibitors in attendance.

Push Messages: allows organisers to send messages and updates directly to visitors mobile devices.

Sharing Options: an application also provides a useful platform through which to encourage visitors to share event information on other social media sites.

Local Map: as some visitors may not be familiar with the local area it may be useful to provide a map with local information.

These are just some ideas, there are many ways in which the creative public relations practitioner can implement mobile applications to engage with visitors. Click here for the results of a Twitter poll to determine the most popular ideas for future apps at music festivals.

Location-based Services
Using location-based services at events can produce an increase in awareness and foot traffic.

The most common use of location-based services is to encourage visitors to 'check in', via their mobile devices, at designated locations within the event venue. This has the effect of spreading awareness of the event through social media sites, as well as directly engaging with visitors who are attending the event. In return for 'checking-in' visitors can be given small rewards by the event organisers or sponsors.

This year saw the Miami Open become the first fully integrated Foursquare sporting event. Attendees were encouraged to 'check-in' regularly throughout the event; the person who became 'Mayor' on that day was awarded with the privilege of tossing the coin at the beginning of the match to decide which player serves first.

Commenting on the introduction of Foursquare at the sporting event Caroline Woznaicki, world tennis number one, said:

“I love the idea that Sony Ericsson and Foursquare are giving fans the chance to become a key part of the game, rather than just being spectators”.

Augmented Reality
Augmented reality allows users to transpose the view through their smartphone with external information.

One of the most obvious ways to use augmented reality at an event is through an app such as Wikitude. This application allows visitors to view the event through the camera on their mobile phone, providing additional information.

As well as providing additional information, augmented reality techniques can also be used, depending on the nature of the event, to promote products and services. For example, the video below demonstrates augmented reality technology used by technology company Hidden to enable the visualisation of floor plans. This technology would be useful in engaging visitors at events concerned with areas such as hospitality, events, and wedding planning.

This post has shown just some of the ways in which mobile technologies can be implemented to both increase awareness of, and engage visitors at, public relations events. It is crucial that PR practitioners keep on top of future advances in the field of mobile technology, enabling them to display the most cutting edge technologies at their events.


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Friday, 22 April 2011

Facebook 'like' Button Celebrates First Birthday

In its first week 50,000 websites installed the Facebook 'like' button, this number increased to 100,000 in the first month. According to Facebook, speaking on Thursday (21st April, 2011), their 'like' button is added to more than 10,000 websites globally every day. One year on we look at how the Facebook footprint has pervaded the internet. 

As we have seen from the figures, the Facebook 'like' button is spreading rapidly across online content, but what is the function of the 'like' button and what does it mean for public relations?

Why 'like' it?
When a user clicks the button the content, usually a product, article or brand, is then posted – along with an optional comment – to the users Facebook profile. This provides an easy way for users to share content with their friends, creating an affinity between themselves and things that they are interested in.

From a business or public relations perspective, the most obvious value of adding the 'like' button to your website is the increase in traffic it will generate as your content is spread across the internet through the medium of Facebook.

Helpfully, Facebook has released some statistics to enable us to better understand the value of a Facebook 'liker'.

The average 'liker' has 2.4x the amount of friends than that of a typical Facebook user. They are also more interested in exploring content they discover on Facebook -- they click on 5.3x more links to external sites than the typical Facebook user.”

What does 'like' mean for PR?
The main purpose of the 'like' button is to increase user engagement with online content; a concept which catapults the button into the public relations spectrum.

As well as creating this initial link between an organisation and its consumers – or potential consumers – the 'like' button also provides a means to build and nurture relationships; surely this has to grab the attention of even the most sceptical PR practitioner. When connecting, via the 'like' button, the user is obliged to agree to a permission or authentication step, thus increasing the ability of the organisation to connect. This could potentially provide the social media savvy practitioner with a plethora of social network profile data on their consumers – including information on other items that they have 'liked' across the internet. Valuable information for anyone looking for new ways to reach publics, and providing information on potential targets for a future campaign or product launch.

Clearly the Facebook 'like' button is an internet phenomenon which is going to be around for a long time so it is crucial for brands and product to embrace it, adding the button – which literally takes seconds – can both increase brand awareness and provide vital consumer information. It is definitely time for public relations to embrace the online 'like' revolution. 

Image Sources
'Like' button:
Facebook 'like' buttons:

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Traditional Media Presents New Opportunity

The rise of social and digital media as a means to reach publics has been well documented throughout the world of public relations. We must not, however, turn our back on what are considered to be traditional media outlets. The launch of two new national commercial packages by media owner Bauer Media has reinstated radio as an effective means to reach local audiences, creating opportunity for public relations.

In recent years there have been numerous changes within the radio industry; one outcome of which has been the decline of truly local radio stations, resulting in difficulty for public relations practitioners aiming to reach local publics. Bauer Media have taken steps to reverse this trend by introducing 'Bauer Place' and 'Bauer Passion', two new commercial packages last week (14th April, 2011).

Bauer Place
Bauer Place is a portfolio of radio stations which are intended to champion local communities, striving to deliver relevant local programming and to unite listeners in their local area. The ability to reach publics through local radio allows practitioners the opportunity to customise campaigns to reach and engage directly with local communities in specific geographical locations.

One example of the use of radio in the promotion of a local campaign is The City of Edinburgh Council 'Foster Me, Foster Us' campaign which will run on local station Fourth One for sixteen weeks. The radio station has been targeted in an attempt to reach Edinburgh audiences, reminding local people that there are children in the city who require loving families.

Stations encompassed in the Bauer Place portfolio reach 8.7 million listeners on a weekly basis and dominate all prominent cities across the UK. The portfolio boasts some of the most influential local stations including; Magic 105.4 in London; Fourth One in Edinburgh; and Key 103 in Manchester. As a public relations practitioner aiming to target a local audience, it is likely that using stations in the Bauer Place package will enable the creation of stronger local connection.Click here for a full list of Bauer Media brands.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

'Checking-in' to PR Opportunity

It would be fair to say that Foursquare has experienced something of a slump in popularity in recent months as the interest surrounding its initial release has ebbed away. However an updated version (Foursquare 3.0), released last week, has propelled the application back into the consciousness of social media users. Should public relations practitioners be taking the application more seriously as its popularity begins to grow?

Foursquare is a social networking service which allows users to check-in at locations using smartphones, sharing information with friends through Facebook and Twitter. One of the main aims of the application is to encourage users to explore their surroundings; recommendations from friends and other users enable the discovery of venues and organisations which may have otherwise been bypassed.

As well as allowing users to check-in at physical locations, Foursquare can also be used to promote brands. Hundreds of brands have 'brand pages' to which users can sign up to receive tips and customised information. From a public relations perspective this provides a unique way to connect and interact with customers and fans.

Users who connect with Windows Live Photo Gallery are challenged to find the best location in their city to take pictures, and share the information with others through Foursquare. The application enables fans and customers to pursue their interest in photography, and encourages them to use Windows Live Photo Gallery to edit, organise and share the photographs that they have taken. Through their brand page Windows Live Photo Gallery are collecting like-minded people, creating a network surrounding their brand; providing the opportunity for brand monitoring and promotion.

Dennis Crowley – co-founder of Foursquare

Another example of brands using Foursquare is Louis Vuitton, who use the application to provide fans with tips and information for attractions around London. Users can comment and 'like' the information posted by the brand, providing Louis Vuitton with information on locations frequented by their fans and customers: information which could be exploited by the forward thinking practitioner. Louis Vuitton could, for example, create a 'buzz' by offering an exclusive reward to the user who checks-in to certain locations at specific times throughout the day. An opportunity to use digital media to generate coverage in traditional media outlets.

Foursquare could also be seamlessly incorporated into a PR event, adding a fun and interactive dimension. This could include, for example, special offers for visitors who check in at certain areas of the event.

Although it would appear that Foursquare still has some work to do in capturing the imagination of British users, it seems that an application which provides such potential for creativity, and customer interaction, should not be ignored by PR practitioners.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Content in Motion: Engaging Through Video

The presence and consumption of video content online is growing at an exponential rate. Public relations practitioners are rapidly facing the reality that they must master video creation; or miss out on seemingly limitless opportunity.

IT and Networking giant Cisco have produced a white paper, entitled Cisco Visual Networking Index, which outlines the pervasion of video into everyday internet consumption. According to Cisco, by 2014 video (TV, video on demand, internet, and P2P) will account for 91% of global consumer traffic; internet video alone will account for 46%.

If these figures aren't enough to convince you to immediately immerse yourself in video content generation, then consider this: the global internet video community has already surpassed one billion users. In terms of population, this makes the community the equivalent of the third largest country in the world. Surely no PR practitioner, or brand, can afford to miss out on an opportunity like that.

Population of China, India, and the Global Online Video Community

The growth in online video is undoubtedly due to transformations in the way that media is consumed; smart phones and tablets, plus the introduction of Apple TV and Google TV, have increased consumer call for video content. These platforms offer the opportunity for internet video to infiltrate homes across the world, and should be capitalised on by PR practitioners.

What can Video do for Public Relations?

As can be seen, video has the potential to transport content around the world; providing PR practitioners with a vast and diverse audience, something which is not possible through traditional media channels.

Broadcast consultancy markettiers4dc describe video on online and digital media as;

“... living breathing interconnecting networks of channels that can be taken advantage of to take your message to your audience, or drive your audience to you.”

In addition to its ability to span the globe, video can also reach audiences who are reluctant to engage with traditional media outlets, such as newspapers, and promote engagement.

One example of a brand using an online video is La Senza's Christmas lingerie showcase, created by Karmarama and Kaper. The aim of the campaign was to promote the La Senza lingerie range to a male audience in the run up to Christmas. As well as the video (below), which aimed to help men who can't tell a cup size B from a DD, a story was run highlighting the fact that £22 million worth of lingerie is returned straight after Christmas every year due to being the wrong size or style. This demonstrates how digital and traditional media can be combined successfully to support a campaign.

As well as being hosted on the La Senza website, the video was featured on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and a standalone micro-site; demonstrating the mobility of video content. The video was viewed on YouTube 2.7 million times – becoming the ninety-fourth most viewed video on the site in the run up to Christmas 2010. Following the campaign, La Senza's market share increased to 6.7%.

Click here for a guide on producing your own video content from PR Week.

NOTE: As a follow up to my previous post 'Quora: A PR Tool?' I posted the question 'How can video content be used effectively in public relations?' on Quora. Click here to follow the question. 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Quora: A PR Tool?

Quora is being hailed as the 'next big thing' in social networking, but what does it mean for
PR practitioners? 

What is Quora?
Quora is basically a platform on which users can ask, and answer, questions on any topic. The site, which was founded in 2009, began to grow in popularity in
late 2010.

A website established around questions is not a new idea, however, what sets Quora apart from the rest is the quality of the answers provided; the sites current users are predominantly professionals who post about their area of expertise. An interactive system in which users can rate answers also provides an element of peer monitoring. Quora offers a social aspect which Drew Benvie, managing director of 33 Digital, believes contributes to its success within the mainstream market.
“Quora mixes the best of a bunch of social sites that means it appeals to a very broad audience... it is the best bits of the social media ecosystem rolled into one.”

The social aspects that Benvie refers to include; the ability to post long articles in a manner similar to blogging; contribute and organise other peoples content; and chat to like-minded people.

There are, of course, potential negative aspects of the platform: anyone can answer questions, compromising the reliability of the site. This could become more of an issue as Quora gains prominence in the mainstream market.

How does it relate to PR?
Among PR bloggers, general consensus is that Quora has the potential to be an effective public relations tool, and so, should not be ignored by practitioners. The possible uses of the platform include;

1. Brand Monitoring
PR blog PR 20/20 suggests that practitioners should use Quora to monitor their brands. Providing real time feedback and a valuable insight into the consumer
experience; the platform can also be used to interact with consumers.

2. Thought Leadership
PR practitioner James Crawford describes Quora as “...a great thought leadership tool for PR people”. Quora provides organisations with the opportunity to establish themselves as authoritative on a subject; raising the profile of experts within the organisation, and allowing consumers to see the face behind the brand. PR 20/20 suggest Quora guidelines should be included in an organisations social media strategy, encouraging employees to answer questions related to their area of expertise.

3. Idea Generation
The high level of user activity, which is rapidly increasing, means that questions are responded to almost instantly. PR practitioners could utilise this by crowd-sourcing ideas, providing response from a large number of people.

4. Research
As well as idea generation, interaction with customers and other experts can provide valuable information on public opinion and reaction to actions of the organisation. This information can be gained in real time, making it invaluable to any PR practitioner.

These are just some of the ways that Quora can be used by PR practitioners. As the platform grows, and becomes more established, it's potential contribution to public relations will become more clear. 

As a novice Quora user I will be trialling the site over the next few weeks and will post about my experience at a later date. Click here to follow me on Quora.