Sunday, January 30, 2011

Have you checked in to Foursquare?

Remember the time before Facebook?  From what I can remember, all of us would go to our Myspace pages (from our computer no less) and share pictures and messages.  One of the most important aspects about personalizing you page was picking the most appropriate song that represents your page the best.  Now it seems we have never-ending buffet of ways to communicate and share content with one another.  Facebook has changed the way we communicate with people forever.  From this point, all we can do is evolve; and we have.  We are constantly finding new ways to connect with one another.  Even video games have jumped on the bandwagon and have created games that allow users to create and share content.  The Playstation game Little Big Planet, allows players to build there own worlds and share them with other players online.  It seems every day we invent a new way to interact with one another.  One of the newer channels that I’m extremely interested in is Foursquare.  How effective is it and how can it be used in a public relations campaign?
FourSquare in a nutshell
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Foursquare is a service that allows people to check in when they arrive at a certain location.  By checking in, you can allow friends to see where you are, provide information about the location, and win awards for checking into certain locations the most times.  The coveted “mayor” title means you have checked in the most to a certain location.  It could also mean you will reap some sort of benefit from visiting that location the most.  The thing that has made this location enabled social media device so popular is the game aspect of it.  Even if you aren’t monetarily rewarded for checking in the most to a location, the title of mayor can be reward enough.  Loopt, Brightkite, Gowalla, and even Google Latitude have all tried to use location enabled software to connect people, but none of these programs have done it as well as Foursquare has.  
FourSquare as a tool 
Duct Tape Marketing wrote,  "7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Take a Look at Foursquare" A lot of these reasons why small businesses should adopt Foursquare are also reasons to pursue this route with your client.  I’ve gone through these tips and picked out two to highlight and interpret from a campaign standpoint.
Foursquare allows users to share their location on Twitter and Facebook.  If you are a public relations professional monitoring your client’s Twitter account using TweetDeck or HootSuite, you can see if someone shares their “check in,” on Twitter.  This is a perfect opportunity to engage this user.  To check into a location, the user doesn’t need to follow that location on Twitter.  Catching these “check ins” first hand can create a more personal experience for that user which may lead to him following you on Twitter.  
Another tip mentioned in the Duct Tape Marketing article is the use of automated CRM data.  This means clients can track how often a customers comes into the store.  Providing incentives for every tenth check in could provide you with a loyal customer.  It’s like have a digital loyalty card on your phone.  Not only will he be more likely to share his visits through social media channels, but he will also be more likely to write a tip about you location.  Incentives like this are great opportunities to pitch to bloggers providing tips about places to go in an area.  
Personally, I can’t wait to become the mayor of a Starbucks.  I’m absolutely going to be needing some free coffee!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A bird in the hand is not worth two in the bush: Ethically measuring value in PR

Since I decided I wanted to be a public relations practitioner, I’ve had many friends and family tell me that is was about lies and spin.  Unfortunately, there are still people who operate agencies who seem to have no code of ethics whatsoever and consequently perpetuate this inaccurate stereotype.  I went into this field because it is not a push medium.  Public relations involves interaction with people and reacting to what they have to say.  The two-way communication aspect of the work we do is what interests me the most.
The need for ethics in public relations is so crucial not only to combat the present stereotype of the profession, but also to help the profession grow.  Public relations practitioners will never be able to successfully roll out a campaign if their audience has zero trust in them.  Currently, you can find codes of ethics for the profession as well as a code of ethics unique to a particular agency.  Out of all the things we do in public relations, the one thing I have always had an issue with is measuring our value.
The advertising equivalency measurement is a measure of how much the value of an advertisement relates to the value of a public relations effort.  For instance, if a public relations practitioner secures a full page story to be placed on the cover of the Dallas Morning News, the value of this effort will be based off the value of a full page advertisement buried in the newspaper.  Advertisers can’t buy full page advertisements on the front page.  The value of having your client featured on the front page of a newspaper is insurmountable but using the advertising equivalency rate will never show that.
This measurement is extremely inaccurate and companies are slowly finding other ways to measure their value.  I imagine in my lifetime I will see a solution to this problem, but for companies that do not have the proper resources to manage tracking their public relations value in a realistic way, it’s all they have to work with.  This issue is not tackled in any code of ethics I have ever come across.  I think for out profession to grow as a trustworthy two-way communication medium, we must find alternatives to the advertising equivalency measurement.  When we are expressing our value to our clients, quarterly or yearly, I believe it is unethical to express it in this manner.  
What do you think?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Skimming Below the Surface

I have a fleeting attention span.  I constantly find myself quickly skimming through articles, but can you blame me?  Twitter has made it remarkably easy to get all the information I need in under 140 characters.  When I find myself having to read an article for school or work, I catch myself skimming.  If I’m lucky, you’ve made it this far and you’re still reading.  It got me thinking, how can PR professionals disseminate meaningful messages to target audiences without the fear of grazing eyes?  
I found the article, “Gaming the system with skim-proof content,” addressing this very issue.  I knew the article had to do with skimming so before I clicked on the link for the full article, I made myself extremely conscious of where my eyes went.  The first thing I did was scroll and stop at a picture.  Then I went back to the top of the page and read through the first paragraph.  I ended the ritual with a full scroll down to judge how long the article is.  
This tells me:
  1. I like pictures 
  2. I want to get an idea of what the article is going to cover 
  3. I care a lot about how much time I’m about to invest in this article.  
I’m immediately turned off because it is two pages.  The fact that I’m not happy about having to click to a second page may say a little something about me and my attention span, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who feels that way.
I buckled down and, without grazing, read the article.  With the use of eye tracking software, Nielsen Norman Group discovered a distinct “F” shape pattern in the eye’s movement.  What this amounts to is readers are focusing on (and often times only reading) the first paragraph and the bolded subtitles in the body of the content.  Your first paragraph it your “do or die” moment for the reader.  If you don’t have them there you have nothing.  This concept throws away any notion of romancing a topic before getting to the nitty gritty.  

Here is a picture of the "F" shape scan featured in the article
So here is what we know: Readers graze and we only have one chance to get their attention.  What do we do?  The fact that we have some concrete evidence of where our eyes land on web pages gives us some sort of jumping off point.  It doesn’t mean we shape our margins in the shape of an “F” and hope they read everything.  The article offers a few helpful tips in economizing the space on a webpage.  For me, reading your content, stepping back, and asking yourself, “Do I care about this?” and, “Would my friends care about this?” matters the most.  
HERE is the article.  Let me know what you do when you skim it (because I know you will skim though it).  Where did your eyes go?