The use of augmented reality in Public Relations

 Technology is constantly developing, and this brings new opportunities for PR practitioners to be creative. One of the most exciting “new” technologies is augmented reality. The reason why I’m putting ‘new’ in quotation marks is that it is not actually a new technology. It’s been around for 20 years, and was first used by Boeing as a tool for fighter pilots to have hands-free navigation and use a digital overlay on top of their glasses instead (like Arnold Schwarzenegger in  Terminator).

Augmented reality combines real and virtual reality, and it is interactive in real time. Right now there are four major trends in augmented reality:

–          Gesture based computing
–          Geotagging
–          AR markers
–          Augmented reality browser

Gesture based computing  is basically a technology that enables you to interact with mechanical devises by using your gestures. An example of this is Microsoft’s project ‘Kinect’ for Xbox 360, released in 2010. It’s a device that lets you play video games without using anything but your gestures.

Geotagging is not just a GPS coordinator that enables you to ‘check in’ at various places on Facebook. Instead of just showing people where you are, you are now also able to leave notes, videos, photos etc. at the location. You can tag your favorite restaurant for example, and the next time your friends visit the location your tag will appear on their Smartphones. It doesn’t have to be a stationary object in order for geotagging to work, notes can also be tied to people (or rather their phones) and vehicles.

AR markers
, such as ‘quick response code’ (QR code) will give you information instantly on your phone or computer if you take a picture of it. There’s an Iphone app by Nike called ‘True City’ which makes it possible for you to use your Smartphone to get information about different cities in Europe. Imagine you just got off the plane in a new city that you’ve never visited before. Instead of getting a map, you’re now able to use an app that puts a digital layer on top of the streets and shows you where the closest restaurant is, where to find a good hotel etc. The Nike app also reveals where new Nike events are taking place, where you can find secret QR-codes in the cities, and when new Nike products will be launched. It’s almost like a treasure hunt! Have a look:

Augmented reality browser is, as I mentioned earlier, a digital layer that you can use in a real environment with your Smartphone camera. This enables contextual advertising, where ‘Startbucks’ for example can advertise their coffee shop in your augmented reality browser.

Since augmented reality advertising is a relatively new phenomenon there are no laws surrounding it yet. That is why it’s so important for PR practitioners to get involved now.  PR agencies can use it on anything. It’s a whole new world of marketing just waiting to be discovered!

Today we see advertising billboards everywhere, but in the future it might look like this:

This is a building in Tokyo covered in QR codes.



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Kony 2012: creative public affairs

I’m sure that you, just as me, have been bombarded with tweets and emails about the video concerning  Joseph Kony this week. The campaign by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children has gone viral thanks to incredibly effective social media efforts. In less than a week the documentary film has gathered more than 40 million views on youtube, and the hashtag #stopkony has been skyrocketing on twitter.

Who is Joseph Kony?

Joseph Kony is ranked the world’s worst war criminal. In the 80’s he took over leadership of an existing rebel group and renamed it the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which is today an army known for its cruel and unethical tactics, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children and forcing children to join the army. The LRA operates in south Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

What was the trigger that made the campaign go viral?

Well to start off, the organization had a strong base of followers on their Twitter, Facebook and Youtube channel. They formed a social community after the American government turned down their lobbying efforts to take action and help the Ugandan army to capture Joseph Kony.  By forming a social community and advocating on behalf of the Ugandan people, the issue that once was invisible for the policy makers in Washington suddenly became visible. Barack Obama agreed to send a small troop of soldiers to Uganda to assist in the removal and arrest of Joseph Kony. This is how Invisible Children gained a lot of followers in their social media. However, the campaign that went viral this week wasn’t about sending troops to Uganda, but rather about making Joseph Kony famous to the people. Why? In order for him to be arrested this year, the Ugandan army has to find him. To do so they need the technology and training that the US army can provide. The problem is that if the US government doesn’t believe that the people care about Kony being arrested, the mission will be cancelled and they will retreat the troops.

On the basis of this they needed to spread the word about Kony as fast as possible to as many people as possible. Just as I mentioned in my previous blog post about vlogging, organizations must adapt to the new media landscape and embrace the fact that there are new powerful stakeholders that control the social media.  The film director, Jason Russell, takes on a new innovative approach in the documentary, where he not only informs the audience about Joseph Kony, but also explains the social media strategy they used to spread the word about him. An important part of the strategy was to target 20 culture makers (celebrities) and 12 policy makers and use their power to get the message across and make an impact.

On their website they’ve listed the 12 policy makers that could impact the outcome of the mission, and they’ve made it easy for the people to get  their attention through grassroots lobbying.

Digital Strategist Steffen Moller writes about how to make PA practitioners more creative and content-driven, and he asks: ‘How does the PA function, which traditionally has focused on subject-matter expertise alone rather than how to communicate it effectively, suddenly become thought-provoking, amusing and emotional by embracing creative content production?’

I believe that the campaign by Jason Russell and his team is a good example of how Public Affairs can be both engaging and creative.

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As I was talking about in my last post, the social media landscape is constantly converging. Another example of this is the phenomenon ‘vlogging’. No, I didn’t misspell it. Vlogging, or video blogging, is very common on YouTube. And just like with the podcast, vloggers use web syndication to distribute their videos with RSS.   The Social Times writes about the top 5 youtube vloggers and why people love them.  Vloggers like Ray William Johnson, who has about 5 million subscribers, can make video clips go viral in a second. This type of social media is great for viral marketing, such as Intel’s video clip that Clare blogged about last week. If Intel got their video clip featured on a show by a vlogger like Ray William Johnson, it would go viral very fast.

As for me, I follow a range of youtube vloggers. Some of them are just for pure entertainment, like Natalie Tran, others bring up news and trends, like this guy:


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The converged podcast

I am a big fan of podcasts in general and I spend a lot of time following different shows; my favorite being a Swedish show by two famous television personalities called ‘Filip and Fredrik’. For those of you who are not familiar with podcasts, it is a form of digital media which consists of episodes of either audio or video files that you can subscribe to and download or stream.

It just so happened that a couple of weeks ago the Swedish duo ‘Filip and Fredrik’ put up a website with a new cool feature to their podcast. Now you’re able to follow the discussions while at the same time get ‘pop-ups’ whenever they refer to something. So for example, the other day they were discussing the Oscar-nominated movie ‘The Artist’, and a pop-up came up with the trailer to the movie and a brief description. You are able to turn it off if you wish to do so. What is really neat is that anyone who listens can contribute to the pop-up information.

This converged podcast, together with the blog that they are writing, makes this one of my favourite websites right now. It merges the written word with audio files and pictures, and I’m always looking forward to each Thursday when they release a new podcast show.

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