June 7, 2010
Internet video conferencing services have become standard issue for digitally savvy communicators. PR professionals are employing Skype, which lists more than 520 million users, and similar livestreaming tools such as Ustream and Livestream, to supplement traditional broadcast media — or circumvent them altogether. Their flexibility combined with reasonable audio and video quality has aided adoption, and practitioners should examine their capabilities for expanding reach.
Major TV networks use Skype to cost-effectively bring guests and reporters into national broadcasts. Oprah uses Skype with guests and viewers regularly.
Winfrey notes on her website that Skype “changed the way we do television.”
Last year, she appeared on a video screen in a New York Best Buy store having impromptu, comical discussions with passersby. She has also talked with newsmakers on location around the globe, such as a scientific researcher in Antarctica.
However, you don’t need a national stage to benefit from livestreaming. Professional sports, consumer technologies and even small businesses are among those tapping its potential.
Jeramie McPeek, vice president of digital communication for the Phoenix Suns, has been a Skype guest on several programs including the Row Show, a live weekly Internet show about technology in professional sports hosted by digital marketing agency row27 Studios.
His virtual appearances are timely, topical and easily produced, benefitting the Suns’ PR efforts.
McPeek finds livestreaming intriguing and plans to use it across the Suns’ digital properties.
“We’re thinking about players livestreaming from the road via their iPhones and a Skype interview with a Phoenix Mercury WNBA player traveling overseas,” he says. “Player and fan chats also seem natural.”
Technology evangelist Robert Scoble used Ustream to livecast from Facebook’s f8 2010 conference this past April. He streamed the event’s press conference for nearly a thousand viewers, offering his insights and talking with other guests along the way.
Practitioners can consider the following to achieve similar results:
Get your gear — When Oprah calls you want to be ready. Equip your spokespeople and clients with webcams now instead of sprinting to the store during your hour of need, or missing an interview opportunity. You can pick one up for less than $100, and newer model laptops have built-in webcams.
Enhance your message — Good communications strategies require good content, and livestreaming can help you affordably achieve volume. Web audio and video generates some of the best audience sharing statistics. Capture short discussions with your clients for video blog posts or record podcasts. Get customers involved by encouraging user-generated content. Report from your own event by sharing a livestream feed with your social network.
Expand your reach — Geographic, time and cost barriers are now more navigable thanks to livestreaming: the keynote address that your media cannot attend in person; the last-minute news station interview request; the international industry analyst you want to feature during your press conference. All are doable with technology and openness to virtual attendees.
Imagination is the lead ingredient since livestreaming has mitigated previously limiting production factors. And we’re PR people, so there’s plenty of that to go around.
Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at criticalmasspr.com.
Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com