QR Codes offer PR pros new options to connect

October 29, 2010

Two-dimensional bar codes (better known as QR or quick response codes) have been appearing in marketing settings with greater frequency over the past several months. Everyone from fashion lines to tech brands to libraries uses them to drive smartphone users to the Web for more information on brands, products and promotions.

The two-dimensional codes give creators the opportunity to embed a variety of information, similar to traditional bar codes in grocery stores. But unlike those codes, these can contain text or URLs within them, creating a portal that instantly connects anyone who scans a code with any number of special apps.

PR professionals are recognizing the benefits of sending consumers and media directly to a specific site for more information.

As reporters continue to add more components to their news stories — photos, videos, audio — smartphones are emerging as a do-it-yourself tool to capture action, often as it unfolds. QR codes can help media by giving them company or event information on the go. Instead of referring someone to a press room, a QR code can point a reporter directly to a press release or other information that is accessible via mobile phone.

Jason Kintzler, founder and CEO of the social media release firm PitchEngine, envisions embedding a code on a flyer, press kit or other collateral, so that journalists can download the intended information anywhere. “The easier we can make it [for reporters], the better,” he says.

QR codes also help PR professionals directly connect with the public, whose attention is becoming increasingly fragmented.

The Weather Channel took the QR code integration one step further, adding codes to television and online ad spots that connect to a download page for their new Android app. Melissa Medori, APR, public relations associate manager at the Weather Channel, said the project achieved strong measurable results. 

“We saw an increase of 21 percent in downloads during the February promotion, and press coverage of the QR code reinforced the Weather Channel as an innovative leader in the mobile space,” said Medori. 

Because analytics can be embedded in the codes, it’s possible to track who has scanned them and generate more information about users.

Smaller institutions are also using QR codes with success. The Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans used a QR code on its front door to tell visitors about its new exhibit,  “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond,” which opened in October. The code links to the museum’s Facebook page, where visitors are encouraged to post their own stories. National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog featured both the exhibit and code.

The William F. Laman Public Library System in North Little Rock, Ark. is now using QR codes to educate their visitors about new technologies.

Kinztler believes that these kinds of projects will grow in popularity as smartphones spread.

“Marketers are already starting to embrace this technology,” he says. “The sooner we understand mobile in [the PR] industry, the better.”

Lesly C. Simmons, APR
Lesly Simmons, APR, is a social media and communications strategist and founder of Digital District.
Email: lesly.simmons at gmail.com


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