Inside the Profession

Friday Five: When Selfies Save Lives

For a trend that started with people taking photos of themselves in a bathroom mirror, the “selfie” has grown exponentially in popularity (and quality) over the past decade. The invention of the front-facing camera phone can probably be credited with taking the selfie to a whole new level. While we still scoff at people who take selfies at Friday Five Logodisaster sites, funerals and other inappropriate places, the selfie has become an accepted part of our digital lives. We even invented a stick to enable us to take better selfies!

But can a selfie save lives? After this week, I’m confident it can.  In this week’s Friday Five  – PRSA’s take on the week’s biggest news stories — we’ll discuss the selfie that changed my mind. We’ll also discuss new ways to consume content on Facebook, unique uses for emojis and a tale of caution for brands portraying their competitors in a negative light on social media. Finally, we’ll remember a man who instructed us on writing well.

Here’s what we learned this week:

1) Publishers Discover a New Way to Display Content on Facebook

When you woke up and grabbed your cell phone on Wednesday morning, did you think your eyes were playing tricks on you? I certainly did, as I clicked on Facebook and saw a full The New York Times feature “A Life in Motion, Stopped Cold” rather than just a string of game requests.

The New York Times was just one of nine major publishers trying Facebook’s new Instant Articles product. While some publishers have committed to using the product regularly, others are exploring how it will impact paywalls. Putting the business and bottom line ramifications aside for a moment, the new interface appears to be clean, seamless and visually stunning. To see how publishers are using this feature in different ways, visit Digiday.

2) You Can Fill Your Belly by Using Emojis

If you thought you were lazy already for skipping a night in the kitchen and ordering pizza for dinner, just wait until you hear about the new way you can place your order at Domino’s. This week Dominos Pizza announced a “tweet-to-order” system that allows customers to tweet a pizza emoji to place their order. Mashable explains how this system will work:

“Once a customer has registered their Twitter handle on their Domino’s Pizza Profile, they will then be able to simply tweet #EasyOrder or just the pizza emoji to the Domino’s Twitter handle. Domino’s will then send the customer a direct message to confirm the order and the Easy Order saved in a customer’s profile will be automatically sent to their home.”

3) Negativity May Hurt Your Brand

In certain circumstances, portraying your competitor in a negative light may be warranted (think of any soap commercial you’ve ever watched). However, using a sponsored hashtag on Twitter to wage war against a competitor may backfire, as T-Mobile learned this week.

T-Mobile spent big bucks purchasing a “Promoted Trend” on Twitter, using the hashtag #NeverSettleForVerizon. Almost instantly Twitter users began sharing their disgust with T-Mobile and its service, explaining why they switched from the carrier to Verizon. It’s hard to swallow negative publicity on Twitter, but imagine paying approximately $200,000 (the cost of a promoted trend according to Adweek) for this treatment.

4) Selfies Have the Ability to Save Lives

Healthcare brands with million dollar public relations budgets often employ countless strategies to bring a health condition to the forefront of conversation. Few of these well thought-out campaigns are as effective as 27-year-old Tawny Willoughby’s selfie.

Willoughby, who is being treated for skin cancer on her face, posted a graphic selfie depicting the results of her treatments. Accompanying her photo was the following statement:

“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like. Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two year old little boy of my own.”

You can read more about the reach of Willoughby’s selfie via Tonya Garcia of PRNewser.

5) ‘On Writing Well’ Lives On

On my first day of graduate school, I opened up “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser for the first time. Throughout my career, I have referred to the sacred text frequently. It appears that I am not the only public relations professional Zinsser influenced, when this week my Facebook feed was filled with news of his death at the age of 92.

Zinsser believed in brevity, stressing the importance of dropping unnecessary words. He said, “There is no minimum length for a sentence that’s acceptable in the eyes of God.”

I invite you to share your own favorite Zinsser quote and advice in the comments.

Rosanne Mottola is public relations manager at the Public Relations Society of America. You can follow her on Twitter @RoeMoPR. 

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.

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