Do you have the time?

The simple question of “what time is it?” can become a major issue at times.

As we recently changed our clocks, the history of this now annual ritual was remembered by the Wall Street Journal.

The controversy over Daylight Savings Time goes back a long way. It is interesting to see how the idea of changing the time was sold and how it was opposed.

There was even a fight once here in Nashville with the afternoon paper, The Nashville Banner, saying standard time is God’s time.

The morning paper, The Tennessean, was OK with daylight time and said it doubted God really cared about what time it is.

So divided they were, for a while. The papers kept separate clocks, an hour apart, in the joint lobby they shared.

For the full Wall Street Journal article, please follow the link.

Watching Pinterest with Interest

One online community generating significant buzz these days is Pinterest, the “virtual pinboard” that has attracted more than 1.5 million invitation-only users since it debuted in 2010.

Whether it is recipes or recreation, fashion or football, home décor or homepages, that piques your interest, the site indulges with limitless opportunities to “pin” images to customizable boards that can be viewed and repinned by other users.

While all sorts of conclusions can be drawn about why Pinterest has taken off, it is the visual nature of the site that is worth noting.

As Mashable describes it, “the browser experience is ideal for the small attention spans of web readers — almost no text, almost all pictures.”

Almost no text? Almost all pictures?

For PR professionals who have built their businesses and reputations on wordsmithing, that notion is a little scary. However, the trend toward visual communication is here to stay, and our business is changing accordingly.

To be successful, everything from the basic press release to internal communications needs to be brief and supported by strong imagery. Words must be impactful but sparse.

And if it’s virtual, it better be visual.

Whether Pinterest is the web’s Next Big Thing remains to be seen. However, the site does pinpoint an important fact: visual elements are an increasingly vital part of delivering your message and defining your brand. Pinning down the right images to complement carefully crafted words will be worth the investment of time and creativity.

iSad

Steve Jobs kept it simple – from the iPhone’s singular button, to his signature black turtleneck and, finally, Apple’s tribute the day after he died. Getting started with a new Mac is simple – no configuring, just turn it on and go. Apple stores are clean in design with the same layout in every city and all employees dressed in the same colored shirt. Even his interviews were simple and focused on products, leaving his private life, private.  In all, his technology reflected society’s need for a simple way of life.

We mourn the loss of this great innovator but are grateful for the legacy of his beautiful designs and technology, making our lives easier and simpler each day.

Social Media: Choosing a Winning Combination

As a culture, we generally like to move fast. Within a few seconds, we can pull directions to a restaurant, reviews of a shoe, or even our fantasy football roster from our smart phones. Instant gratification is the norm. And with a 24-hour news cycle, it’s no wonder companies maintain that expectation.

But when it comes to using social media, it’s better to think smart and make wise choices before moving too quickly. Think more about the strategy, and less about the tools. Doing so will help your social media plan be more successful, and will be a better use of dollars spent.  Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself as you develop your strategy:

What is your objective? Is it simply to obtain as many followers as possible, or do you genuinely want to start a dialogue between you and your audience? Social media strategies work best when the user is fully committed to spending time engaging those who take an interest. If you’re taking the time to listen and interact, you’ll reap the rewards.

Where is your audience? This is an important question, because you can have a blog, Facebook and Twitter account set up and active, but if your audience isn’t there, then it’s a waste of your time. Do they respond better to texts? How about email? If you can figure out which form of communication is best for your audience, it will go a long way.

Does the company encourage a social culture? In other words, if you set up a Twitter account for the company, will every Tweet need to go through three rounds of legal approval, plus approval by the CEO? Perhaps social media tools like Facebook and Twitter may not be the best way to communicate your message. A blog might be a more effective tool.

Above all, keeping your company’s mission and vision in line with your social media strategy is sure to be a winning combination. So take a deep breath, pour yourself a cup of coffee and do some thinking. Your company will thank you.

Augmented Reality Continues to Gain Popularity

The most recent wave of Augmented Reality (AR) applications has provided some of the most impressive and innovative uses of this technology to date – and is sparking greater conversation about the unlimited potential AR has to promote products, educate consumers and even create advertising revenue.

In Business Week’s recent article, Augmented Reality Helps Sell the Product, several examples are cited ranging from a Cheez Doodle band targeted to tweens to an application launched on Facebook to promote Kia Motors.

Home Depot jumped into the world of Augmented Reality this holiday season by launching the first interactive gift card. The card allows the recipient to browse featured products, build a shopping list and ultimately redeem the card online.

The most innovative and high-profile use to date is the December issue of Esquire magazine.  The experience begins with the cover as Robert Downey, Jr. leaps to life on your screen to promote everything from the contents in the issue to his soon-to-be-released film “Sherlock Holmes” – including a clip from the movie. The issue contains several other AR symbols allowing you to interact with a Lexus Car ad, listen to music, look at photos and watch actress Gillian Jacobs tell a joke.

This issue creatively does something that has never been done before – seamlessly launch the print world into an enhanced interactive experience.  It shows the possibility of these two mediums accenting each other in a way never before imagined and captivates the reader in a one-on-one brand focused experience that is both entertaining and memorable.

Click the links below to read more and to visit Esquire’s AR site where you can download the player and experience the magazine first hand.

Godin’s Brands in Public idea hits a snag

Picture 38The launch of Seth Godin’s “Brands in Public” service through Squidoo last week has created quite a bit of conversation.

Brands in Public describes itself as the ultimate (unofficial) web dashboard featuring everything you need to know about what people online are saying about a brand – then encourages you to add your own comments for “debate” and join the conversation through “shout out” forums.

It’s actually a really fascinating site.  Brands in Public even proactively set up more than 200 brands just for the launch of the project.  But they did make a couple of mistakes.  First, they failed to ask the brands for their permission.  Second, they told the brands in order to maintain control of their dashboard they would have to pay $400 per month for the service.

While companies obviously recognize the importance of monitoring online conversations about their brand, turns out they don’t really want to make it quite so easy for the rest of us to read up on them in such a concise “unofficial” manner – and be required to pay for it.

Godin has quickly back peddled and agreed to remove the brands that were created without permission but will maintain the website as an opt-in.  Several high-profile brands remain active on the site including Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Company.  Visit Brands in Public to read more or to start a brand profile.  Visit Seth’s blog to read his apology.

(EDITORS NOTE:  The site pages for Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Company have all been removed since the original posting of this story.  The following links still remain as of 9/28/09 – Home Depot, Allstate, Molson and Mini Cooper.

Click here to visit Brands in Public

Tweeting to avoid a Crisis

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While many still search for the best way to jump in on the world of Twitter, some companies appear to be embracing the social media tool in a very effective manner – using it much like their own news feed. Ford Motor Company, Pepsi and Southwest Airlines have all recently used Twitter to quickly address situations that could have easily turned into public relations issues.

Click the link below to visit The Wall Street Journal online and read the entire story.

The Wall Street Journal