Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Survived: My Day Without a Smartphone

My friends and family often poke fun at me that I couldn’t survive without my iPhone. Well, a few weeks ago I spent 24 hours that proved them wrong. No, I don’t have enough will power to attempt this on my own, but when upgrading to the iOS 5 platform crashed the software on my iPhone 4, I was in for a rude awakening. I would have written this post sooner, but I was still coming to terms with this traumatic experience - okay that's an exaggeration, though I did once cry when I left it in a cab.

My iPhone crashed with impeccable timing too, one minute into a conference call with a client, while I was working from home – without a landline. Panicked, I knew I had to think like a 2011 PR pro and use the resources around me. Within minutes, I had purchased Skype credit and was dialed back in through my laptop. Okay so that was disaster number one, and it was only within the first hour of not having my iPhone. When 5:30 hit, I was ready to be out the door on my way to the Apple store, but I wanted to check the weather first. Instinctively, I reached for my iPhone to open the Weather app. Oops, can’t do that. Immediately, I thought, wait – how do people check the weather without the weather app. Yes, I sat there pondering this for about 10 seconds, sitting in front of not one, but two laptops – my Macbook and my work laptop. Eventually, I figured out it out, grabbed a jacket and was out the door to the Apple store.

The Genius Bar had bad news for me – the server crashed and there was nothing they could do. Not only was I being deprived of my early-adopter status of downloading iOS 5 immediately after it was available, but they couldn’t even restore my old software. On top of all that, I couldn’t check in to the Apple store in Peabody through FourSquare – and any social media fiend knows that checking in at Apple is critical.

Like any good mobile-obsessed tech geek, of course I have a back-up phone ready to go for emergencies. Off I went to AT&T, where I met the most helpful sales representative – thanks Brian. So I was ready to go with my PanTech dumb phone. This is when disaster continued to occur. When you’re used to doing things a certain way, it’s hard to adapt. I called my aunt who lives nearby – yes I do recall how to use phones to call people. We decided to meet for dinner and I was headed to pick her up. Instinctively, I picked up my phone to Google Map the best way to get to her place from the mall. Oh wait, dumb phone, I don't have Google maps. I took the wrong exit, and went minutes out of my way. At the restaurant, I wanted to show my aunt photos on Facebook multiple times, but had to settle for actually describing things myself. I managed to make it through the meal and some wine with my aunt. When I got home that night, I had a small panic attack, setting four different alarms, not counting on any of them to wake me up on time. Nervous, I even Tweeted for someone to call me at 6:30 a.m. to make sure I woke up on time – no one called by the way, thanks guys.

The next day was nearly disastrous. As I sat on the train to work, I came up with the idea to write this post and reached for my iPhone to make some notes...another failed attempt. I decided to text my brother, trying multiple times to touch the non-touch screen to navigate my way. I tried again to check in on FourSquare, and to check my email. I wanted to Tweet about the "hardship" of not having an iPhone, but I had to wait till I made it into the office.

We get used to things a certain way, and we take things for granted. It threw me off to be so disconnected, and I'd like to say I had some profound realization that I don't need this technology in my life and I rid myself of the smartphone, but I didn't. The truth is, and this will shock a lot of people, I never thought I needed an iPhone. I saw the value in it and I wanted it. After having one for so long, it's hard to adjust, but not impossible and I'll say it - not necessary. But I like always knowing where I'm going nd being able to do the things I like on-the-go. I've said this many times, I love technology because it's constantly working to make our lives better, more efficient. That's what the iPhone does for me. So yes, my life was less efficient for that 24 hours, but it wasn't unmanageable. I'm here to say, I'm a survivor. I'm not better for it, I'm not worse for it - I was simply annoyed. That's my PR thought for thought for the day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs: Thank you.

I've blogged about Apple countless times, just this morning, in fact. I've based several school projects on the company that I admire so much. Heck, I even made my personal logo an onion with the rationale that Steve Jobs proved produce can be a powerful branding strategy - no seriously, check out this post from 2010. I've blogged about Steve Jobs himself a handful of times. But what I've never done is explained why this company and its inspirational CEO have meant so much to me on a personal level. That may sound silly, but it's also very true. Now, on the evening that one of my heroes has passed away, seems like the perfect time to explain why I'm so obsessed with Apple. And I am obsessed, you can ask any one of the dozen or so people in my life who texted me to make sure I was okay when they heard the horrific news that Steve Jobs had passed away.

Simply put, Apple is one of the greatest reasons I'm passionate about what I do. I was passionate about Apple before I even had my first Apple product. So when I got my first iPod, I thought I could do anything. When I got my Macbook Pro, I knew I could do anything. That came with my iPod Touch, and I downloaded way too many apps, far more than I could use. But what came next is what launched me into passion, into feeling like an unstoppable force. That's right, what came next was my iPhone.

Before I knew it, I was obsessed with mobile. I was reading anything I could get my hands on to find out more about the industry, about the capabilities of smartphones and what they would come up with next! Anyone who tried to tell me the iPhone wasn't the greatest phone on the market was quickly squashed like a bug as I babbled about how it's the most user-friendly interface and I stammered off stat after stat about how it's the number one mobile operating system and although Droid is impressive, it's simply not an iPhone.

The way Steve Jobs and Apple have continuously broken the mold and pushed innovative new products onto the market is inspirational. Previous technologies have been forgotten in the wake of Apple products. Steve Jobs' vision has revolutionized consumer technology, and that vision, the drive to continuously improve, innovate and create products that make our lives better and more efficient - that's why I love my job. I work with technology visionaries who, much like Steve Jobs, are working to push technology forward to create a more efficient supply chain, a better customer experience or a faster online experience - all with technology.

Where would technology be today if it weren't for Jobs? We don't know. Because it isn't as simple as there wouldn't be iPhones, Macbooks and iPads on the market. Other MP3 players and tablets wouldn't have had the competition to beat. Jobs raised the bar and inspired others to be better. And he did it in style. Each one of Apple's products isn't just a handy piece of equipment; it's a work of art. Sleek design was almost as important as the features and how well it functioned -- almost.

People who meet me know that I'm tech-obsessed. The reason is inspired by Apple, led by Steve Jobs. I am passionate about tech, and it all started with my first iPod. Jobs has inspired me, and when I get on the phone to pitch a client and technology I'm really excited about, I think of how excited Jobs must have been when he was sharing his ideas. You could see it in his eyes at press conferences. He believed in advancing technology. He was a visionary and an inspiration. We're all sad to see him go. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for inspiring all of us and gracing the tech world with your vision. You will be missed, and my thoughts are with your friends and family.

Friday, September 16, 2011

MobileMonday Part II: Mobile Games

Following up on my last MobileMonday post, let’s get to the heart of what this night was all about – mobile games. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s even slightly interested in the mobile industry, but leveraging geo-location into mobile games was a huge topic at the event. Not one of the game developers who presented dared not to mention that their game had the capability. In my humble opinion, the best mobile gaming takeaways of the night are below.

Sell to the fantasy – Design to the behavior.

The best point that I thought was made the whole night about location-based gaming was from Greg Trefry from Gigantic Mechanic. The reality of location-based gaming is that it’s not active. Developers create these apps with the mindset that people will go all over the city and do different things to play games with their friends. But people don’t deviate from where they go very often. Will they explore new places? Maybe, but most people want to go to their local bagel shop and order their usual coffee, from their regular barista. Touché, Greg.

Cater to the single player experience.

Eric Asmussen from 82 Apps just wants to play good old fashioned games – on his iPad. Let’s be honest, that’s the best platform for many games, especially the kind Eric likes to play – board games. Only Eric wasn’t content playing Catania and Risk on his iPad, he wanted to have more fun. So he came up with New World Colony. Eric learned quickly though, that game development takes time and while he may like playing best on his iPad, he needed to expand to the iPhone market to reach more potential users. Eric’s best advice, in my opinion, was to cater to the single player experience – especially in the early stages. Sure, it’s great if you can hop online when you want to play and battle against someone across the country or the world. But if there are only a handful of people using the app in the early stages, there’s a smaller likelihood that you’ll have someone to battle. Online matches are practically useless for smaller games, and there needs to be an option to take turns, like with the popular Scrabble-like app, Words with Friends.

You need ads, but keep them relevant.

Video gaming is an addiction. Matt Snyder from MediaMob shared an interesting stat that almost makes me want to put down my iPhone. Almost. The typical smartphone user spends 15 hours per month playing games. Most of us (92 percent) play once a week, but many play every day (45 percent). Angry Birds has replaced Starbucks as the most overused mobile analogy, Matt says, qualifying the influence that mobile games have on the industry.

Matt talked about mobile advertising challenges and what makes a better experience for gamers. There’s growing pressure to release free games, but often times these are hampered down with ads that ruin the experience. This is easily avoided by keeping the ads relevant, something I’ve been talking about for a while with clients, and Matt reaffirmed. Catering to relevancy will result in huge rewards. Matt says that mobile ads should offer real world returns – discounts for products and services a mobile gamer would care about. Better yet, he states, offer value to the user for the game they’re playing; allow gamers to unlock levels/points in the game for watching a sponsor’s video.

My pick of the night.

There were some great games and apps at MobileMonday, and I learned a lot about the mobile gaming space – from development and HTML 5 to additional insights in mobile advertising. My favorite of the night, though, was from the TapLab. Dave Bisceglia shared a new game I’m way too tempted to download – TapCity. I’m a self-proclaimed FourSquare addict. I’ve been fighting with a colleague for months now to earn the mayorship of our office here at PAN – I’m so close that I’ve debated coming to work on a Saturday. But that’s not TapCity. To me, TapCity is a hybrid of war and Monopoly for FourSquare. It’s not just for social media addicts like me, it’s for gamers. Sure, you check-in. You check-in the most and you’re the mayor. And if you’re the mayor, you can collect revenue from anyone else who checks in, so you’re earning real value, well as real as fake money can be. But here’s the catch, the location-based differentiator, if you will. Don’t feel like coming in on a Saturday – you can forcibly become the mayor. Launch attacks on properties, and if you’re already the mayor, be sure to set up precautions and protect your property from the city dwellers trying to get a slice of your property’s pie. Watch out, Boston, because I’m coming after your venues, one tap at a time.

The Mobile Games event was a great way to kick off Future M week, and you can bet you’ll find me at future MobileMonday events. Matt Snyder at MediaMob said it best, gaming is an addiction. Mobile technology is changing the way we game, and where we do it. What mobile gaming apps are you addicted to?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Media Maven Meets Mobile Monday

Geek. Nerd. Dork. Tech-obsessed – that’s what my brother’s MIT friends called me when I showed up late to watch Monday night’s Patriots game. Yes, you can re-read that sentence. A group of MITstudents was standing there calling me a geek. They couldn’t believe I missed most of opening game to go to a MobileMonday event. I didn’t want to miss the game (though I did make it back to see Wes Welker run a 99.5-yard touchdown so I could win my PAN Fantasy match-up.) I tried to tell them how cool it was to hear about HTML 5, some innovative new apps, and best practices and challenges for mobile game development. They looked at me blankly. So I’m hoping I’ll have a different reaction here on prSPEAK, and maybe some fellow “geeks” will think the Mobile Games event, presented by Mobile Monday Boston, was as cool as I did. If so, drop a line in the comments and let me know I’m not alone. There’s a little too much for one blog post, so check back later this week for the second half of my MobileMonday recap.

The new

Whether you’re upset that the Boston Globe is asking readers to pay for online content or not, you have to be impressed with the new mobile design on the My only complaint is that I really do love native apps. I have the app and I love it, and it sits in a group of apps with all my other favorite news sites and blogs. However, I think I’ll find myself giving a shot on my iPhone. Here are the highlights, as I learned from Jeff Moriarty from the Boston Globe at Mobile Monday:

  • Responsive design – Content is sized to any device
  • Touch feature – touch, pinch and scroll your news
  • Bookmark stories you want to read later
  • Device driven formats – Whether you’re reading on a Kindle, BlackBerry, iPad and so on, the content will be optimized to your screen.
  • Same storage space as native apps
  • Gaming component for crossword puzzles – I like to call this old school meets new school. Crossword puzzles – really?


One of the reasons I went to MobileMonday was because I wanted to learn more about this technology, and, more importantly, about the impact it will have on software development, particularly for mobile developers. I’ve been seeing a lot about it, but I wanted the quick-and-dirty from people who know what they’re talking about. The guys who spoke at Mobile Monday had a lot to say, because they’re in the thick of it. The biggest challenge, as Jamie Caralis from MocoSpace shared, is device fragmentation. There is a wide variety of screen resolutions and bandwidth power across devices, and HTML 5 is still an emerging standard. Still, I was impressed by the HTML 5 capabilities Jamie talked about. Here are a few his highlights:

  • Ubiquitous across operating systems
  • Open standards – web and game developers share a common language
  • Open distribution system – not locked in by restrictive policies.

A few other presenters, Trevor Sayre and his brother “Z” from Gradient Studios, closed out their presentation with some final thoughts on HTML 5. HTML 5 is not just HTML; it’s open web technology and integrated media content. Get on board, because you’ll reach a wider audience – everyone has a browser, not everyone has the right app store.

As I said, I still prefer native apps, but I suspect HTML 5 is a huge game-changer for mobile developers and we’ll likely see a lot of companies leveraging this tech to reach a wider audience, as Z and Trevor pointed out.

More to come on MobileMonday later this week, as I share the insights I learned about the mobile gaming industry.

This post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Briefings 3.0 – A Video Is Worth a Billion Words

This post originally appeared on prSPEAK, a blog by PAN Communications.

It’s true, I’ve only been a full-time PR pro for little more than a year, though I’ve diligently followed the field for years. Still, I can see the progress that is happening so rapidly in this growing field. In many ways, public relations is circular, and we’ll continue to apply best traditional PR practices. But PR is also very linear, as we constantly use the tools at our hands for progress in the field. Most recently, we’ve been leveraging video to create opportunities for our clients. It’s a hot topic that everyone’s talking about. Dan Schwabel’s Digital Media 3.0 event I attended a few weeks ago with my colleagues reaffirmed that.

Whether it’s bringing video content to mobile devices or the hundreds of tools, apps and services for streaming video to desktops – everyone’s trying to see how they can leverage video for their campaigns, their advertising strategies and PR plans. Why? Because it’s personal and compelling. It reminds us that there are people behind these companies. And no longer do you have to buy ad time during the Super Bowl to tell your story and reach your audience. One of PAN’s clients recently mentioned that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a billion. He’s right, nothing tells a story as vividly to an audience as a video.

This is a great opportunity for PR pros, especially as reporters, too, are trying to ride the video bandwagon to create more compelling content. Sure, there will always be great articles, great written interviews. But to make things more personal, I’ve been seeing a lot more of what I’m deciding to call Briefings 3.0. Rather than connect my clients and reporters through conference lines, I’ve set up three Skype interviews in the past two months.

These briefings 3.0 are a win/win for both the reporters and the clients. Each can gain a better feel for the other’s personality and whose on the other side of the call. Readers are rewarded with more engaging content. Sure, the PR gal in me had a minor heart attack at first, since it’s still not possible to have 3-way recorded Skype call and I wanted to be on the line. But with some good prep on both sides, knowing the opportunity I secured for my clients and trusting my clients - I knew that video would be a hit for both the reporter and our client.

Video isn’t necessarily new, but how often, where and on what device people are watching it has made it a game-changer. We’ve even created video content for our blog as we tell the story of PAN’s growth and move to Boston. And stay tuned, because there’s more exciting video posts to come from prSPEAK. At PAN, we value video and what it can bring to digital and traditional strategies; we’re applying our knowledge of this to our client’s strategies. Those who aren’t realizing the full potential of this medium will be left lagging behind as more realize how powerful a video story can be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We're Doers, Not Watchers: Defending the Social Media Generation

The other day I came across an article by Dean Obeidalla on that posed the question of whether or not social media is creating the laziest generation. An interesting question - one that I strongly answer with a heck no! I can see why the question was posed, and there is validity to both sides of the argument. There's even a Toyota commercial about a girl who judges how "social" she is by how many Facebook friends she has. Still, I argue that social media is certainly not creating the laziest generation.

First of all, while I respect Dean's viewpoint and enjoyed his article, I have to offer a bit of criticism for providing reality TV as a valid argument that social media is making us lazy. The two simply aren't related. Sure, people share opinions and engage with each other around these shows on social media platforms - but that's just because people are talking about nearly everything on social media, TV included. To partake in social media does not mean that you watch reality TV. I love social media, in fact, my friends and family call me mildly obsessed. But I don't watch reality TV, ever. There are plenty of people who do both, but to engage in one does not mean that you engage in both.

Some will argue that we've become lazy in our writing. Everything needs to be shorter - 140 characters on Twitter even. Well I say we've just mastered the elevator pitch. What used to be communicated in lengthy presentations and long conversations, we accomplish in 140 characters. Yes, we watch. We watch to see what comes next and how we can take that idea to the next level. Or implement it into our start-up, or our campaigns.

Dean was right, one Tweet will not change the world. But one Tweet can spark another, and then a trending topic and then start a revolution. Social media has incredible influence, and we're all in the midst of a game-changer for politics and business.

People are using social media to make their lives better. We're using it to do things, not just watch things. We're obtaining new information and using it to make a mark on the world, look for job opportunities or connect with like-minded people who share interests. That way, we can connect on and off line. We're exercising our minds endlessly online, sinking in all the information we can from the many channels we're tuned into. We Tweet, we update, we connect. We find roommates on Craig's List or We meet boyfriends and girlfriends through online dating. We support our favorite political candidate with Tweets and statuses of support, which is actively shared with all of our friends and family. We blog about places we've been, or activities we've participated in. We are doers, not watchers.

So, social media isn't creating the laziest generation, it may even be doing the opposite. We engage with more people and wider circles than ever before and are able to meet people that we never would have without the emergence of new media. That's my PR thought for the day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yup, this is another post about Google+

You might be getting sick of Google+ posts by now, but here's my two cents on the latest social network - just a few basics.


1. You can edit posts. Can't tell you how many times I had wanted this feature when I had one silly typo in a Facebook post or Tweet. Solid move.

2. Google grabbed all my info from LinkedIn, Blogger, etc. That saved me a lot of time, and I had the choice to publish it or not.

3. I'm sharing with colleagues, journalists, bloggers and clients on a happy-medium level. Not as much as we should be sharing if we were Facebook friends, but more personal than on Twitter. I'm getting to see new sides of people's personalities, many of which I've never met but have connected with online or over the phone.

4. Circles - awesome. I don't care about the fact that you can share with certain groups and not others, which is the main pitch point of circles. And maybe I will start to care more about this as time goes on. What I like about it is that I can filter the stream. If I want to get some info, news or pitch ideas about mobile tech, I'll only look at those in my mobile circle. I'm seriously loving this feature. And I love that people can't see what circles I put them in, though I'm morbidly curious what circles people are putting me in. Annoying PR folks? :)


1. No contact connection to other social networks. I realize other sites are the competition, but you're not going to win me over by limiting my access to them through Google+. I don't connect my social networks usually because I think they each serve a different purpose for me, but I'm new to Google+, we all are. And I want to find friends from Twitter and Facebook who are using it so we can connect, not just my connections from Gmail. That would be huge for me as I get started.

2. No link shortener in the mobile app - super annoying.

3. There's no button yet to share articles from other sites, only to +1 them. Facebook has a "Like" and a "Share" button. Hopefully this is only a matter of time...Or I'm just proving my last post wrong because I'm too lazy to actually copy and paste a link into Google+.

4. No "smart screen" for the mobile app. That's probably not the technical term. But when I turn my iPhone horizontal for easier typing, the screen in the mobile app doesn't turn with it. This is beyond irritating when you're typing.

Google+ certainly has some kinks to work out, but it's brand new and that's the whole purpose of beta. On the whole, I think it's a pretty solid social media platform and it will continue to improve. I'm excited to keep learning and sharing. That's my PR thought for the day.

Oh, and be sure to add me to your circles folks.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Relevancy, Engagement, Value - Why You Should or Shouldn't Follow Me

I love Twitter. Well I love all social media, but I have a special place in my heart for Twitter. It continues to prove itself to me, both for personal and professional networking. Too often though, I hear negativity about following too many people - as if it's a bad thing. I'm not attempting to defend spam bots here or anything. But I've heard and read many comments about the ratio of people you are following to people who are following you. It even affects some influencer measurement scores such as Klout. I understand that perspective, because there are certainly people and organizations who will follow anyone and everyone in an attempt to increase their own follower count. However, I do think other other factors need to be considered. Here's just a few of those factors:

1. Relevancy: Are the people who you follow relevant to you, on a personal or professional level? Sure, I follow a few hundred people - Kim Kardashian is not one of them. That's not to say anything against her or those who follow her, but her Tweets simply aren't relevant to me. I follow my friends and colleagues to stay connected, as well as folks in industries that interest me - PR, journalism, mobile, marketing, IT, etc. Oh, and of course I follow both of my alma maters, Merrimack College and the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

2. Engagement: Are you engaging with the people you follow? Okay, I haven't retweeted, mentioned or sent a message to every single Twitter handle that I follow. But you can bet I've engaged with people across all of the industries and interest areas I follow. I may not retweet everyone, but they're on my list of followers because I think they have potential to share compelling content with me - content that teaches me something, makes me think or just brings interesting news to my attention.

3. Value: Are the people you follow actually sharing anything important with you? If not, why the heck are you following them? Value doesn't have to mean that you should only be following the likes of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Value's different to everyone, and there's all different kinds of value too. You could find value in a humorous Tweet when you needed that comedic break in your day. Or it could be that news or research report that brings you the perfect angle to pitch a trend story for your client. Value doesn't mean any one thing in particular, but all of those you follow should bring it to you in some form or another.

Maybe I'm naive or drinking too much Twitter Kool-Aid, but the way I see it, you should follow as many people as necessary to obtain value. I don't follow people just because they follow me, and I certainly won't unfollow anyone who chose not to follow me back. If they decide they will not gain anything from following me, then why should they? Sure, there are definitely some industry folks out there I wish would follow me back (ahem @BrianSolis). But I won't stop following them because I'm too proud. If I'm getting value out of their Tweets, then I'll continue to follow them and retweet or respond to anything I find compelling enough to share.

Again, I understand both perspectives here, but I think there's more to consider than a simple comparison of followers/people you follow can provide. So when friends and family ask my opinion, I never preach "don't follow too many more people than who follow you." I preach to follow those who will make Twitter as valuable and fun as it has been for me, whether that's 10 people or 1,000 people. That's my PR thought for the day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Keep it Real: Welcoming Friends and Family to Twitter with Open Arms and Retweets

As somewhat of a social media geek, Twitter has been a big part of my daily life for a while now. Recently, my social media social life has been overlapping with my good old fashioned social life more so than usual. My friends and family, who have perviously made fun of me for my love of Tweeting, are starting to sign up for accounts. I was thinking about why that is, and then I started noticing how much it's showing up in mainstream media, not just in my work and online circles.

When I say mainstream media, I don't mean celebrities Tweeting. I mean that Twitter is being talked about in venues that my friends will actually pay attention to - their TV shows. Two weeks ago Grey's Anatomy included Twitter as a main theme of the episode, as Dr. Miranda Bailey Tweeted her surgeries live. On the Big Bang Theory, it was a main theme when Sheldon Cooper's lecture became a trending topic. They even discussed supposedly well-known Twitter acronyms like KMN - for kill me now - to convey boredom. These were both main themes, but I've seen Twitter mentioned in many other shows as well, even if it's just a passing comment here or there.

Now, as a lover of Twitter, I get excited seeing these themes in a few of my favorite shows, and I even point it out to my roommate with a quick, "See, I told you Twitter isn't lame." But I had to step back for a minute and ask myself, are they setting the expectations too high?

In PR, of course we'd love to have all of our clients become a trending topic each day, but that's just not always plausible. These shows make it look simple, when it isn't always. Is it realistic that while live-Tweeting a surgery, a fellow surgeon would Tweet a recommendation that leads to saving a life? And would a boring lecture from a nerdy physicist really become such a trend on Twitter when there are so many exciting things going on? Isn't it more likely that a compelling human interest story or massively-engaging current event will trend?

It's certainly interesting to think about, and maybe it could be some day, but I think we're still a long way from these things becoming reality. Maybe I'm wrong though, maybe a Tweet can save a life. There is that case of the girls who updated their Facebook statuses and were thereby rescued from a storm drain in Australia. Of course, my thought was that if they had her phones, it probably would have been more efficient to dial 911, but maybe I'm just being old-fashioned that way.

Twitter's great - I love it for real-time updates on news, staying connected with friends and people in my industry and so much more. I welcome my friends and family to the social network with open arms and retweets. But when my friend has to ask why she doesn't have as many followers as me after only a week of Tweeting, I think it's important to keep our Twitter expectations realistic. That's my PR thought for the day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brand Loyalty: Starbucks' Die-Hard Customers

Some more on branding here, with the coffee that made many of us feel a bit out of our league the first time we stepped foot inside a store and the aficionado in front of us ordered his "tall, nonfat, iced caramel machiatto, upside down - oh and no whip." When I entered my first Starbucks, my palms were sweating as I looked the sizes up and down. That guy just ordered a tall, but it looks kiddie-sized.

"Can I take your order, miss?" I'm interrupted by the service rep, oops, I mean the tan, preppy yet punk, barista with the green apron, stylish glasses and nose ring behind the counter.

"Umm," I stutter. I fumble. I fear exile if I order wrong. "A medium coffee?" She doesn't blink, she just gets her cup and writes my order on it. Did I order correctly? What about cream and sugar?

Okay, I eventually figured it out. And now I can order my fancy drinks with the best of 'em. But what kept me coming back for more after that initial culture shock? I think it's got a little something to do with the focus on the experience more than the actual product. The brand experience creates loyal, committed customers.

As committed customers, these die-hards don't just view Starbucks favorably, but they tend to actually undervalue competitors. If you ask a Starbucks customer if they’d like a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, you're likely to receive a dirty look, and possibly a small amount of judgment as they quickly answer “No.” Starbucks doesn’t just make coffee, they’ve created a brand with steadfast enthusiasts. Customers like this are valuable in times of crisis. It's probably why Toyota came up with the ads about "Asking someone you know who drives one." This was conveniently right after the recall crisis last spring. They relied on their committed customers to defend their experience with Toyota.

When you walking into a Starbucks, there's a certain mood and ambience. There's a sense of reciprocity that if you're loyal to your cup of Joe in the morning, it won't let you down. It's also about the human connections that Starbucks has created in the store. Unlike some coffee shops that are more about getting in and getting out, Starbucks has a more inviting atmosphere with their friendly baristas. And after you leave, the interaciton continues through its many social media channels. They have committed Tweeters who answer questions, plenty of engaged Facebook fansand they were one of the first retailers to offer rewards through Foursquare. Starbucks does this because they tend to know their audience, the ones who are likely to interact and crave that extra attention through a shout-out in a Tweet. They're the trend-savvy early adopters who like change and innovation. Sitting in a Starbucks today, I even looked around to notice that out of the five of us on our laptops, four of us had Macbooks. (Maybe there's a potential partnership opportunity in the future for Starbucks and Apple?)

Brand loyalty isn't brand popularity. It's long-term dedication from a large number of customers. It's what separates Starbucks from Dunks, and all of their other competitors. That's my PR thought for the day.

*Image found through Google image search.
*Disclaimer: I'm impartial to Starbucks or Dunks - I drink both.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Verizon's iPhone - Premature or Strategic?

As my account manager pointed out to me today, unless you've been living under a mobile rock, you've been hearing about the Verizon iPhone, and the jeers back and forth between the wireless giants -Verizon and AT&T. I've read quite a few of these stories and still don't know exactly how I feel about the whole deal. Disclaimer - I've been a loyal AT&T customer since I got my first cell phone six years ago, and am a current iPhone user.

That being said, a few of the articles I read questioned why Verizon would launch the iPhone 4 now, potentially just a few months before Apple unveils the next version of iPhone. I'm here to offer my perspective on that. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons, but the top two that come to my mind are press and sales.

Every company wants good press. This Verizon announcement has led to an almost absurd amount of coverage. Almost every tech, mobile and wireless blog and publication has covered it - not to mention the business press pick-up in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and so on. Sure, Steve Jobs can pretty much sneeze and get some impressive media attention, but this Verizon announcement has got everyone talking - tech folks, mobile guys and gals, social media gurus, business ladies and gents, and of course, consumers. When Apple does launch the next generation iPhone, Verizon will have to fight AT&T for the press. By announcing this now with the iPhone 4, Verizon snags some stand-alone pieces. Boom - Verizon and Apple increase their SEO and press momentum - not that either has struggled too much in those areas.

There will always be those consumers and early-adopters who want the latest and greatest gizmos and whatyamacallits. There's the Apple enthusiasts, of course. We all know those people who buy the latest version of everything Apple. They waited in line overnight for each iPhone and almost peed their pants when they got their hands on their first iPad the day it launched. Don't get me wrong, if my wallet allowed it I'd be camped out next to them. Many of these enthusiasts may be settling for supposedly lower quality AT&T service because they want the hottest Apple device. But now they have the chance to switch to the service they really want - Verizon. In a few months, they'll wait in line again when Apple announces the latest iPhone. That means they have potential repeat buyers, which leads to greater sales than if they waited to make the announcement with the next iPhone.

I think Verizon's decision to announce that they will be carrying the iPhone 4 was a strategic move at this point in time, that has already secured significant media traction, and will likely lead to increased sales. That's my PR thought for the day.

Image taken from Google images.