PR professionals can use 360° cameras for visual storytelling

360 Degree Visual Storytelling

 

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


We recently moved our San Diego head office into a beautiful new space. I couldn’t wait to share it with the world. There was just one problem. Our new setting needed to be experienced rather than described or shown. Words either fell flat or came off as braggadocious and standard photos and video weren’t capturing the scene I wanted to depict.

How could I share our agency story so people could experience virtually what our team was experiencing in real life?

Inspired by a recent journalism presentation I attended on immersive storytelling, I realized that, as a PR professional, I could use 360° cameras for visual storytelling too—in fact, a 360° camera was probably the perfect solution for my quandary. So, I began browsing Amazon for options and settled on the Samsung Gear 360.

For $99, this camera shoots in 4K, has a microphone and takes photos and videos plus time lapse, live video and HDR landscape images. It has two lenses–one in the front and the other in the rear. You can shoot from just one lens  for an extra wide angle, panoramic-style still or video. When you use both lenses, the camera’s software stitches the images captured by each lens together to create a seamless 360° view of your surroundings.

Why Go With a 360° Cameras for Visual Storytelling?

Visual storytelling is more important than ever. In the information economy, the scarcest commodity is attention, and visuals are the most economical vehicle for communicators to get their points across.

That’s because the brain can process visual information—or at least recognize a concept—in as little as 13 milliseconds, according to MIT research released in 2014. (By comparison, it takes 400 milliseconds to blink an eye.)

Through strategic design, motion graphics and video, today’s storytellers can convey a message or create a feeling in their target audience “at a glance”—and a glance may be all you have. The visual draws your audience’s attention and makes them care long enough to read the rest of your message or material. Additionally, visual content is highly correlated with recall. An audience exposed only to text or spoken word could recall 10 to 20 percent of the content after three days. With visuals, audience recall rose to an average of 65 percent. (For more on visual storytelling, check out our most recent newsletter.)

There’s a hierarchy at work: still images outperform text, motion graphics outperform still images, video outperforms motion graphics and live experiences outperform video. As an experiential form of video,  360° cameras for visual storytelling can bridge that gap between stills, videos and experiences.

Social media stories (videos with animated gifs and virtual reality filters like Snapchat’s and Instagram’s) illustrate this hierarchy perfectly as they have nearly overtaken traditional feed posts as the new preferred medium for social sharing.

And news outlets have embraced 360° storytelling too with The New York Times, Associated Press and others using this technology to immerse their readers and viewers in their reports from the field.

360° Cameras Are Not Just for Photographers

Don’t be afraid to use this technology. I wouldn’t call myself a technophile by any stretch of the imagination. I hate reading user manuals and expect my tech to be intuitive to use right out of the box. That said, the instructions for the Samsung Gear 360 were straightforward and easy to digest.

After charging the device; I downloaded the app on my Samsung S9 (an iPhone app is also available), inserted a memory card (sold separately), connected my phone via Bluetooth and started taking photos and videos using my phone to control the device and to store the images too.

Learn By Doing

You’ll want to get familiar with the camera’s features. Give yourself the opportunity to learn what works and how to get the best images when you’re not under pressure or on the clock. Set aside some time and space to play with your new toy. You’ll quickly see for yourself what each mode can do. Below are some examples that I shot from our San Diego and Los Angeles offices and a few from my summer visit to Honolulu:

360° Photo: Using One Lens Only for a Panoramic Effect

(W)right On La Jolla Panorama
This panoramic image was created in the Landscape HDR mode which uses only one lens but takes multiple pictures at different exposures and combines them to create more intense 180° or 360° images. It was the perfect solution for capturing our office environment without backlighting problems.

360° Photo: Using Both Lenses for Full 360° Still Image

360-photo
Images from both the front and rear lenses are stitched together to create 360 degree views in a static, still image with a fun, otherworldly feel. Search #tinyplanet on Instagram for many fun examples.

360° Video: Using Both Cameras for a Full 360° Experience

Click and drag your cursor to experience the agency’s La Jolla office from all directions! 

360° Time Lapse: An IABC Los Angeles Chapter Meeting

Click the image and drag your cursor to see who’s at the table! 

360° Time Lapse: Walking through Waikiki

These 360° images become interactive when uploaded directly to Facebook. Your followers just need to tip, tilt and turn their mobile handset to view the image from all angles. Here’s an example—if you’re reading this on your mobile device, click on the link and give it a try.

Don’t Be All Thumbs

Your thumbs and fingers might wind up in your 360° shots because the 360° view is so wide.

To keep your thumbs out of the shot, secure the camera on a slender extendable mount of some kind. I found that a light stand worked perfectly. I also tried a stabilizer I had been using for taking standard video with my smart phone, but its mount was too chunky and showed up in the shot. Most light stands have a simple screw at the top upon which the Samsung Gear 360 model fits securely. Light stands are generally very lightweight, collapsible and inexpensive.

Ultimately, I also purchased a short, lightweight tripod that I can also hold in my hand to keep my fingers out of the image and which is easier to travel with.

Once the camera is mounted on a tripod, you can control it from a distance using your Bluetooth-connected phone. That means that you can place the camera to capture a scene and then go pose for the shot. With the camera’s timer mode, you can also set up a shot and give yourself a few seconds to put your camera down and get yourself or your group into position.

If you’re holding the device in your hand, you’ll be happier with the results if you look up at the camera and say “cheese” or, as explained above, place it on a tripod and operate the camera at a distance with your smart phone for a less posed shot.

Be Mindful With Motion

With the 360° video setting, the immersive nature of a moving image can be a bit disorienting. A gimbal device can be used to create a more professional, totally stabilized image or video.

But even without additional stabilizing accessories you can capture motion elegantly.

First, place the camera on a tripod so that it’s perfectly still. Allow the camera to capture the motion around it. That will give the viewer the sense that they’re immersed in the action without the distraction of jarring camera movements.

Second, make use of the time lapse setting. Hold the camera at a distance on a narrow stabilizer and slowly move through the scene that you’re seeking to capture. Because the final image will be considerably sped up, any jerky motions won’t be visible. This effect creates a fun, high-energy image and can really boil a scene or experience down into mere seconds for at-a-glance communication.

Third, combine a tripod with the time lapse feature. Using the tripod, take a time lapse image of the surroundings. If the experience you’re trying to capture is something like an event getting set up, a streetfront or bustling beach scene, this combination will immerse your viewer in that place and convey the scene in mere seconds.

Depending on the 360° product you’re using, it may have a “Stabilize” setting, which, in the case of the Gear 360, automatically corrects shaky or tilted photos and videos. If you’re uploading to YouTube to share your footage, you can also toggle YouTube’s Auto-Fix or Stabilize Video options in its Effects menu before publishing.

Ideas for PR Pros to Use a 360° Camera for Visual Storytelling

The uses are manifold! Essentially, anytime you want your audience to feel or experience something remotely or virtually, 360° video or stills are a great tool in your communicator’s toolkit.

Hospitality PR pros can bring prospective guests and media right into the property’s lobby or immerse them in a nearby visitor attraction. A technology public relations team can bring the trade-show floor or their CES booth to life. And imagine doing that as a behind-the-scenes Facebook or Instagram live video to tease your booth or product launch? If you’re in entertainment PR, this technology is perfect to immerse your audience in a red carpet or festival experience.

I’m most excited by this technology for nonprofit visual storytelling. Putting your donors in the environment of the people, places or pets that their philanthropy helps can be incredibly powerful. A hospital foundation can show the new wing or equipment that its donors helped fund, a food bank can show its empty shelves ahead of a food drive and a nature preserve can share a time lapse with hikers, wildlife and passing clouds to encourage public support.

All of the above are perfectly suited for social media engagement too. And with Facebook and YouTube supporting 360° video, you can use these social networks to share your immersive visual stories.

What to Budget

If you’re ready to try a 360° camera for visual storytelling, you can buy one for about the same price as a 164 GB storage card, and you’ll likely need both, so budget at least $200. While you might be able to save $20 by buying a smaller memory card, why have regrets when you run out of storage capacity in the middle of a video shoot?

A light stand as a tripod may run you a minimum of $20 and a handheld stabilizer about $15 to $500 depending on how fancy you want to get.

I also upgraded the storage card on my phone to make sure I would not run out of storage space as I began accumulating more large video files. And the Landscape HDR mode images are quite large too – but beyond worth it. (I never want to take a standard landscape photo again!)

Conclusion

If you do go for it (or are already producing 360° video and immersive stories for your client or company), I’d love to hear about your experiences or see your work. Share with me on Instagram at @juliewrightPR or see our agency’s feed at @wrightoncomm. I can’t wait to see how others are using immersive storytelling to earn attention and drive interest in their messages.

And if you’re not yet but would like to bring a 360° influencer to your site or work with an agency that is embracing new methods to bring your story to your audience, please contact us at info@wrightoncomm.com.

The results will be well worth it!

Five lies about PR measurement that can sink your strategy and career

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


Last month I attended the Ragan PR Daily PR measurement conference in Miami. The two-day event was crammed with hot tips and excellent case studies on PR measurement–how to design measurable campaigns, incorporate analytics, conduct surveys and develop metrics that matter.

Businessman pointing graphs and symbols Free PhotoIt is increasingly clear to anyone in the public relations profession that PR measurement is something our industry needs to embrace. With marketing budgets and margins under constant pressure, companies are looking to optimize their investments across paid, earned, shared and owned strategies. Not only does PR need to stack up against highly measurable digital strategies, it also needs to take digital paid, shared and owned tactics under its wing to produce more integrated, measurable campaigns.

After two full days of discussion in Miami, I was even more convinced of these truths and returned to San Diego fired up to confront some of the biggest whoppers about PR measurement head on. So here are my top five falsehoods. I’d love to hear your take on this list and maybe together we can all help move the PR field in the right direction.

LIE #1: PR just isn’t measurable.

If you are in PR and truly believe this, you’re toast. Sure, PR is not as easy to measure as digital marketing, but it is far from impossible to measure!

It requires a little more legwork and setting aside some campaign resources to do it well. But, keep in mind, the gold standard for PR excellence has always started with research and ended with evaluation—a.k.a. measurement.

Don’t believe the lie that PR isn’t measurable. Instead, refresh yourself on best practices in PR research and evaluation.  

  • Read “Public Relations Research for Planning and Evaluation” by Walter K. Lindenmann on the Institute for Public Relations’ website.
  • Check out the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Communications and their Integrated Evaluation Framework. AMEC has developed an interactive online tool that walks you through each step in the PR planning and evaluation process. The tool is designed to help support campaign evaluation; however, you can just as easily use it to guide campaign development to ensure you’re creating measurable campaigns from the start.
  • Read how others have designed measurable campaigns. AMEC has an annual awards program and shares case studies about the winning campaigns.
  • Check out the measurement resources provided by the Public Relations Society of America. It has collected all the measurement resources and links you could wish for in one place.

LIE #2: Our campaign goal is to raise awareness.

This is also a lie. As Joseph Ogden, BYU public relations professor, threw down in Miami, “If anyone tells you their only goal is awareness, they’re lying.” No one wants their PR campaign to simply raise awareness. They want their campaign to drive people to take some measurable behavior—to buy a product, drink less soda, visit a destination, attend an event, enroll in a course, submit their email, visit the website, vote, download the white paper or make a donation.

Hold yourself to a higher standard and help your client or boss understand that you do more than just “create buzz.” (Eye roll.)

It’s easier if you start by developing an objective that clearly states the behavior you want your stakeholders to take, by when and how often. Once you know your behavioral objective, work backwards and think about your informational objective–the message or knowledge your stakeholders need to receive and internalize—and the motivational objective—the emotional connection they need to make—to drive them to take the desired behavior.

Once you’ve set your intention from awareness through motivation and behavior, you can start to research your stakeholders to find out what their level of awareness and knowledge is and what motivates them so you can develop your strategy.

LIE #3: PR people aren’t numbers people.

That’s B.S. Don’t be boxed in by this lie. Good PR people are good storytellers, and one of the most powerful storytelling elements available to you in 2017 is data. Don’t shy away from it.

IBM Digital Experience Manager Brandi Boatner put it another way during the Miami conference: “Congrats, you’re all data scientists.”

Boatner pointed out the many data streams at our disposal today. There are internal sources that are coming from your advertising, website and internal processes. Analyze them as well as external streams you can study such as news trends, social media trends and competitive intelligence.

Google’s Louis Gray pointed conference attendees to Google Trends, a site where you can see in real-time what the world or the U.S.A. is searching, what news stories are trending and find interesting reports on search behaviors.

If you’d like to dig deeper into your audience’s awareness, beliefs or behaviors, check out Google Survey. Use this tool to cost-effectively add your questions to consumer surveys pushed out to targeted demographic groups via a network of publishers.Image result for PR measurement memes

Or if you have data of your own that you’d like to put into an impressive visualization, Gray pointed to Google Public, a data visualization tool. And don’t forget plain old Microsoft Excel. It will recommend the optimal charts and graphs for you based on your spreadsheet data.

It’s a data-rich world. Your company and clients are collecting data all the time. Extract that data to find amazing trends or to dispute conventional wisdom. Maybe there’s a surprising correlation between weather patterns and shopping behaviors, or day of the week and donations. The point is, you won’t know if you don’t look. And you won’t look if you think it’s outside of your skillset.

So, call a meeting with your company’s data guru and start spit balling with your new best friends in I.T.

LIE #4: More data is the answer.

It’s not about metrics. It’s about insights. And it’s not about the quantity of data points. It’s about their relevance to your goal.

Over a third of social marketers reported recently that they struggle to “distill data into insights and actions.” And it’s no wonder. Facebook and Google Analytics are just two sources that can generate a massive amount of data on your target audiences’ behavior.

Going back to your informational and behavioral objectives, it’s important to pinpoint a handful of key performance indicators to show that your message is reaching your target audience and that they are taking the behaviors that your client or boss really cares about.

You don’t need to track them all. You just need to focus on the metrics that matter and then go beyond tracking to analysis.

LIE #5: Setting measurable PR objectives sets you up to fail.

The old saying applies here: you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

It is not a failure to set measurable objectives and then fall short of them.

The failure is in not understanding why you didn’t meet your objectives. Were they not SMART enough–specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time dimensioned? Was your strategy missing an element? Was your target getting the information but not motivated sufficiently or too inconvenienced to take action?

If you’ve set measurable goals, you are forced to ask yourself these questions and better understand your successes and challenges, which will make you better.

The only real failure that should scare you is the failure to even try. Or as another old saying goes, no one plans to fail, they just fail to plan.

Let us know what you think. How has your experience with PR measurement been? What tips or tools have you discovered? What obstacles have you encountered with your team, boss, budgets or clients? We’re all in this together and I’d love to hear what you think. Tweet me at @juliewright or @wrightoncomm.

Solution-Based Web Tools For Every PR Pro

tools

By Shae Geary, Sr. Communications Strategist

It’s always a thrill to learn about a website that can help make your job easier. So, in today’s post, we’ve decided to share three favorite sites that are great tools for anyone striving to be a savvy communicator in the digital age.

Whether you have a dedicated PR role or simply find that communications is just one part of your daily activities, these sites are worth checking out – and maybe including in your “favorites” bar too.

Web2PDF

If you strive to maintain a paperless office, you’ll love Web2PDF. This site allows users to convert web pages to PDF files that can be electronically stored for future reference. At WOC, we have found this handy for everything from documenting online media “hits” (published articles or posts) to maintaining files on industry trends.

Web2PDF also allows us some peace of mind, since there is nothing more frustrating than trying to access information via a link that has suddenly become inactive or only available to certain subscribers! Users can convert up to 30 links a month for free, and it’s as easy as copying the web link and clicking a button.

www.web2pdfconvert.com

Constant Contact

Whether creating a newsletter, invitation, press release or other e-communication, Constant Contact is a robust tool for producing visually impactful emails that can be shared with a large number of people at the same time.

The program offers hundreds of design templates that are mobile-friendly and customizable with logos, photos and even color schemes. Contact lists can be imported and segmented in the program, giving users full control over who gets the email and when.

On the back end, Constant Contact also provides a reporting feature that shares important information such as how many contacts opened the email, email address bounces and other useful statistics for follow-up, database management and future outreach.

www.constantcontact.com.

Grammar Girl

Cogrammarnfused about how many spaces to use after a colon, when to use “i.e.” versus “e.g.” or the difference between “affect” and “effect”? Grammar Girl can set you straight.

Billed as “a friendly guide to grammar, punctuation, usage and fun developments in the English language,” this site is a great resource for those pesky questions and making sure that your communications are always properly polished.

www.quickandirtytips.com/grammar-girl

 

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An Ode to AP Style

Hashtag Flawless: The #CallMeCaitlyn Transformation is PR Gold