Archive for January, 2013

Come on QR code – surprise me!

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Module 3

guardian_qrcode460x276It was last May that I made the decision to take a social media class.  The reason?  I’d read an article in the guardian (here) suggesting ways that charities could use QR codes.  The headline promised that, “QR codes can be used to engage donors and make their donation journey quick and easy – and they’re free to create.”  It went on to describe various successful p.r. campaigns in the U.K. that have used QR codes to direct people to information (awareness around issues) and easy ways to help (volunteer, membership and fundraising).

While I found this interesting – and I’m in this course because it made me realize how far we’ve come with social media – I couldn’t have been one of the charitable people that made these campaigns successful – not because I don’t give – but because until this past Sunday – my smartphone didn’t have a QR reader.

I’ve seen the little decorative boxes on pamphlets, food packaging, posters in the subway, and ads on television.  But, when I found out that my smartphone didn’t come loaded with a “decoder” I lost interest. As much as the guardian article had sparked excitement in me for digital p.r. – I couldn’t be bothered to search, download and pay an additional fee.  Then Boyd offered up this week’s assignment challenge.  Since I’m already a Foursquare user, and I know a fair bit about HUDS (since I love sci-fi),what was left were those little squares.  So, I broke down and loaded the QR Droid onto my smartphone (wasn’t hard at all – and it was free).

The single biggest learning this past week has been how wide-spread the use of these little squares has become.  It seems that since I wasn’t looking for them, I hadn’t noticed their increase in popularity.  While there are still some nay-sayers out there, a simple look through my mail this week supports the view that they’re not dead nor dying. In an August, 2012 article on QR codes in Ragan’s PR Daily (here), Hubspot‘s head of advertising, Doug Slagen was quoted as saying, “With more sophisticated technology being in the hands of a larger percentage of the masses, there will be a paralleled growth with QR codes as their general applicability lies with smartphones.”  I think he’s right. Especially now that more and more android devices come equipped with the readers (many of you won’t/don’t have to any longer take that extra step like I did).

So, if that’s the case, if more of us will have/have already the ability to access what’s in those tantalizing little boxes – then p.r. has some real opportunities to connect with our publics.

I mean, I love the idea of  these little boxes. Looking at them, they remind me of the surprise bags we used to buy as kids.  In the same way I couldn’t wait to open up those bags to see what goodies were inside, over the past few days, I’ve been scanning like crazy to find out what surprises these boxes hold.  Mostly, it’s been disappointing – the content was boring, not interesting, not engaging, not even necessarily informative.  BUT – then came this! —

Embedded in the same Ragan’s PR Daily article (referred to above) was a link to inspiration:  Emart Sunny Sale Campaign – 3D Shadow QR Code . You’ve got to watch this video! I love this! I love it not just because of where the QR Code takes people (to the store site for deals), but the imagination that thought to create a 3D code that’s a sculpture that works with light and shadow.  Look at the faces of the people crowded around.  As the video voice over says, what has been created is “a unique experience”.  And what a result, not only did sales increase (marketing) but membership increased 58% (p.r.) and there was alot of media coverage (p.r.) evidenced not just by what “the voice” says in the video, but also by what comes up when you do a simple search.

So, now I had HOPE for the QR code and what was possible for p.r. because of them. And then, I found this – a Technorati article (here) published just yesterday (January 29th/2013) with the title: Umbrella Public Relations Stunt Achieves World Record Claim (here).


As part of a p.r. campaign, a company in China – that claims to be the world’s largest golf facility – created the world’s largest QR code using people holding umbrellas.  Inspired!

According to the report in Technorati, “The QR Code was formed by nearly 2,000 staff carrying umbrellas and an aerial photograph was taken from a height of 270 feet so that the code could be used in Press Releases.” 

The Sunny Sale Campaign had given me hope.  Add to that the Umbrella Campaign and I’m now a believer!

So, here I am almost a year since I read that article in the guardian and I’m a QR code convert.  From (1) charities to (2) box stores to (3) the world’s largest golf facility – QR codes can help us engage our publics in new, inspired – and surprising – p.r. ways!


a One of the things that I’ve loved about Twitter is that it’s been ad-free.  That changed in April, 2010 with the announcement (reads like an apology) that the site would be introducing “Promoted Tweets” (here).  Best Buy, Bravo, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America were the first companies willing to get on the Promoted Tweets bandwagon – if there is a bandwagon.

I say that, because despite having two Twitter accounts, one professional and one personal, I had never seen a Promoted Tweet, nor evidence of what came later – Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends – until five days ago. Last Sunday evening, I sat down ahead of the Golden Globes t.v. broadcast with my laptop and typed in: #golden globes.  Much to my chagrin, there at the top of the deck was an ad! A Dove ad – Dove @Dove – sitting motionless, static.  My Twitter space had been invaded!

However, (sigh) if I’m going to embrace social media, if I’m serious about public relations – and I am – I can’t turn my back on what’s happening on the web.  With the help of my Ryerson social media p.r. prof, Boyd Neil @BoydNeil I’m taking a hard look at the question of, “What is the potential value (if any) to a public relations  program of Twitter promoted tweets, promoted accounts and promoted trends?”

I expected to find an onslaught on the web about the value (ROI) of Twitter’s promoted services.  Not so. There are articles saying it exists, but beyond that there really isn’t alot of information or analysis available.  And, what information is out there is more geared toward marketing than public relations. So, I turned to the Twitter case studies (here).

I chose one case study in particular, to zero in on the potential value to public relations: UN Foundation.  The case study begins with this claim: “The UN Foundation extends reach of event globally with Twitter”. According to their website, the Foundation is “…focused on bringing together all the parties — individuals, foundations, corporations, other organizations — to help foster global, lasting change.”  The case study describes a summit that took place last June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The global event brought together influencers and other passionate thinkers for the purpose of discussing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues – including (but not limited to) the environment, food, water and gender issues.  A goal of their public relations program was to “amplify the reach of the summit”.   To do this they invested in a Twitter Promoted Account, that is – an event specific account.  The Promoted Account was targeted to their existing stakeholder publics and to influencers.  The Foundation also used Promoted Tweets “in timelines and in search to share content from the event in real time with people searching for the event on Twitter.” According to Aaron Sherinian, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, “The ROI on our Twitter campaign was phenomenal and ensured that we met and exceeded our goals for social engagement for #RioPlusSocial.”

All of this sounds great.  I can see the public relations potential for using Twitter for this type of event.  But I’m not convinced of the value for money.  First of all, what did it cost?  That’s not discussed. And, even if it were a bargain by web standards, did they really need to pay for it? Given how Twitter was used in this case – and the results, I don’t see how paying for promoted services added alot of value.  It seems to me they could have developed the hashtags, monitored and tapped into the same influencers with the same results – for no additional cost.

And, I’m going to circle back to my first observation – I have not seen Promoted Tweets until five days ago.  I never saw any evidence of the UN Foundations Twitter p.r. investment for this event. Yet, I’m the target public for something like the Rio Forum.  In fact, I knew it was happening – but mainly followed it on Facebook.  For those times when I did follow the Rio event on Twitter, I have no recollection of Promoted Tweets.  I’m sure I would have noticed what looks like an ad.

Based on what I know from these case studies, and what little else I could find on the web (example discussions on Quora where people are asking the similar questions), if I were responsible for a p.r. plan (including budget and corresponding ROI) I’d need a lot more information about not just success in terms of number of followers and quality of dialogue, but success in relation to cost.  I want to know more about the experience of early adopters like Starbucks, Virgin Mobile, Coke and Microsoft.  I want to know why I’m not seeing their Promoted Tweets on Twitter.  I want to know why they didn’t bid for the Golden Globes’ spot last Sunday night given the traffic. Is it because their experience was an insufficient return on investment with Twitter  – especially when compared with say Facebook, YouTube or Google?

Without knowing more, we’re left to speculate.  And, I suggest that the speculation doesn’t favour Twitter.

Social Media’s Lifeblood

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Module 1


I didn’t have to read very far into Olivier Blanchard’s book, Social Media ROI, to find inspiration for this inaugural post.  At page four, he lists what he refers to as three popular social media buzzwords: relationships, trust, and conversations.  He writes, “These three words describe the social web’s lifeblood, especially as it relates to business.”  As a public servant, I’m extending the lifeblood idea to also relate to government – and I’m zeroing in on trust.

According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, across 25 countries trust in government (and business and NGOs) has significantly decreased.  In fact, in the 2012 Edelman survey, trust in government was lower than trust in business! As someone who lives this reality day to day this was no surprise, but it’s still disheartening.

So, what can we do to help build or restore trust? How can social media help?  As Blanchard writes, “The secret to how social media works won’t be found in marketing or business books. …In order to understand the true power of the social web, you have to look into the nature of humanity itself…”  (ibid., at p. 4).  What do we know about humanity and their relationship with governments?

We know that our stakeholder publics want to be listened to and respected.  They want to be assured by both our words and our actions that government is working in their best interests.  We also know that people now, like never before, want to have a say in how government carries out their mandate.  They want to participate, to collaborate.

Now, I just need to find the social media tools and platforms that allow me to build the best social program possible that can deliver on what my public wants.   I’m sure I’ll have all that figured out by next week.  I mean, how many tools and platforms can there be. What’s that?  How many more popped up in the time it took me to write this post?