Missing Baton Rouge? Helping BRAC showcase the best of BTR using SCVNGR

I am a transplant to Baton Rouge. I was not born a Southerner. I was born and raised in Wisconsin and then lived in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and West Virginia for the first 35+ years of my being. As you can see on this map, I spent most of my life living above the Mason-Dixon Line.

Image from SonoftheSouth.net

Image from SonoftheSouth.net

As someone new to the area I want to take in everything I can of the culture, the cuisine and the surroundings. But, it isn’t easy to find out more about where you live. Often, many of the things you ask about people who have lived there forever either: 1) take for granted and don’t tell you about it ’cause they think you already know it, or 2) don’t know “why” a thing is the way it is. Things have been lost over generations. Stories that used to be passed on about local legends have been forgotten. While there are sites such as this one that help collect local folklore, the stories listed there are sparce. As you can see from this Louisiana listing, not much has been handed down and posted to the site.

Now, when it comes to the local cuisine, Southerners can tell you EVERYTHING. Where to locate the best, what spices they use, how to make it yourself at home, etc. Recently, a friend showed us how to do a proper Louisiana Crawfish Boil — and Wowee was it amazing!!!!!

Image from Commons.wikimedia.com

Image from Commons.wikimedia.com

Getting to better know my surroundings has been a bit more difficult. I want to visit all those places that make Baton Rouge unique. The places that aren’t necessarily listed in the brochures at the hotels:) That’s where the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) and SCVNGR come in.

BRAC is currently working to promote Baton Rouge as the Creative Capital of the South. They are working with local businesses to bring new talent to the Baton Rouge area. To promote BTR they are using interaction, engagement and yes, even the geolocation-based mobile gaming application, SCVNGR. As part of the service-learning component of my MC4001- Public Relations Writing course at the Manship School of Mass Communication, students are building mobile treks to help BRAC showcase the best of BTR. Their hope is to get talented individuals to re-locate here permanently.

The treks BRAC and my students have planned are:

  • Discover/Re-discover BR
  • Nightlife
  • Arts and Culture
  • Get out of Town

Each of these will help people who are transplants (i.e., completely new to the area) or boomerangs (i.e., once lived here and are coming back) find out about established locations as well as new places they should try out.

So whether you are a boomerang who is missing your roots in Baton Rouge or a transplant who is missing out on Baton Rouge — we have you covered.

Continue following our progress on this project by checking out my students’ blog (see blogroll on left). You can also follow me on Twitter (@jensenmoore) or find me on LinkedIn.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Trek season in Baton Rouge: SCVNGR for social good

Every time I drive onto the LSU campus via Dalrymple Drive I feel a sense of awe at how beautiful Baton Rouge is. There is an amazing variety of wildlife, trees and flowers at the LSU lakes and campus. I walk around constantly looking at things here and wondering what they are. For example, I am constantly curious what the beautiful birds are that I see in the water here.

The LSU lakes

What if there was a mobile application where you could find out not only what type of bird you were looking at in any particular place, but who else had been there, what they liked best, and tips they might have for you? Oh wait, there is an app for that. It’s called SCVNGR.

This semester the PR Writing students at the Manship School of Mass Communication are creating SCVNGR Treks for local Baton Rouge nonprofits. Many of these will include outdoor activities (e.g., a Trek through the Baton Rouge park and recreation system) that will employ important aspects of game mechanics such as: achievements, behavioral momentum, discovery, points and progression.

Since it has been about 75 degrees and sunny the last few weeks it’s a great time to Trek though Baton Rouge. Gamifying the Baton Rouge community will make being in local places more fun. If the Treks are constructed correctly, it should also increase audience engagement for each of the nonprofits. While Baton Rouge is certainly lovely and entertaining, the ultimate goal of this project is the latter.

The PR students are trying to use SCVNGR to influence social good. As you can see in this early gamification article, this project is not the first one to use game mechanics for social good (you can also see that SCVNGR is also not the first mobile application to be used this way).

In December 2010 SCVNGR teamed up with American Eagle to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

This week the students will be working hard on creating engaging Treks for their nonprofits. It will be interesting to see which game mechanics they will apply and how they intend to use PR tactics to promote the SCVNGR Trek and their nonprofit organization.

Follow us on this journey via Facebook (Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR) and Twitter (@discoverBTR).

I’m baaaaaack with another dose of SCVNGR!.

Actually, I moved — to Louisiana. However, I am back this semester with another SCVNGR project thanks again to an amazing grant opportunity from SCVNGRU.

Last semester I wrapped up the SCVNGR at West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) project. The students were split into groups focused on adding for-profit clients in the categories of: restaurants, bars, services, entertainment and retail. In the beginning each group had to sign up 10 clients for each category. A task that was seemingly simple — after all, the accounts were free, the students were going to create the promotions for the client, and they were going to get each client media coverage. However, we soon discovered that even though something is free (and we would do all the legwork) clients were hesitant to sign up. SCVNGR, as well as other geolocation-based mobile gaming applications, were such a “new” concept in Morgantown that clients didn’t want to sign up.

Also, it took students sooooooooo long to get clients on board (we eventually had to limit the project to five clients signed up for each category) that they had so little time to concentrate their efforts on getting them media coverage about the project/SCVNGR. The class was PR Writing and Applications, therefore more of the focus should have been on the media coverage aspect.

So, this semester I am at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication in Baton Rouge, LA with a different take on the project. Instead of multiple clients, each group of PR Writing students will approach ONE Baton Rouge non-profit and set up a TREK for that client. They will design multiple CHALLENGES (e.g., take a photo, list your favorite, answer a question, etc.) for smartphone owners to complete at that non-profit. Once they sign up their ONE CLIENT the groups get to spend the rest of the semester focusing on a “mini-campaign” to get that client media coverage.

It’s not unheard of for mobile gaming applications to be used by non-profits. SCVNGR has successfully been used by the following non-profits:

The class is a bit overwhelmed at this point, but are starting to get excited about the possibilities this gives them. We are the only class in the U.S. that has been awarded this type of SCVNGR grant making them unique going into the workplace. They will already know how to set up mobile promotions, get audience engagement and promote a non-profit using a new type of digital technology. Employers should love this!

SCVNGR vs. Foursquare challenge

This semester, my Public Relations Writing and Applications students are completing a service-learning project designed to improve Morgantown small-business revenues by incorporating SCVNGR, a geolocation-based mobile application, into their promotions.

SCNVGR, two-screen shot of retail store challenge.

I envisioned that the task would be an easy one. After all, none of the small-business owners have to pay for the mobile challenges, treks, or rewards offered through SCVNGR, nor do they have to design them. The PR students do all the work for them. Then, after the promotions are up and running the PR students write news releases, feature stories, pitch letters, etc. to get each small-business free publicity. I thought the hardest part would be pinning down small-business owners for meetings. I was wrong.

It seems that Morgantown small-business owners are not very familiar with SCVNGR — or it’s competition, Foursquare. This was surprising as a large part of Morgantown revolves around West Virginia University and college students are HUGE users of mobile phones as well as gaming applications. This meant that the hardest part of this task was that students had to explain (often multiple times and in the minutest detail) what location based applications and gamification were.

Sometimes the small-business owner had heard of, or were at least a bit familiar with, SCVNGR‘s competition, Foursquare (which didn’t always work to our advantage).

Foursquare, two-screen shot of check-in and "tip" posting.

So, I decided to ask my Advertising Media Analysis students to take a few weeks to compare the two different geolocation-based mobile applications to see what they thought. My end-goal was to help find ways for the PR students to “sell” SCVNGR services to small-business owners.

Here are the highlights of their findings:

Foursquare

  • “After I started getting the hang of this application it was easy to see how so many people are addicted to “check in” everywhere they go.”
  • “I really enjoyed that if I checked in enough I would earn new badges.”
  • “I like Foursquare because it seems more venues use it.”
  • “With Foursquare you can easily check in at different locations and earn free stuff.”
  • “I’m more prone to visiting a restaurant where I know I can get a discount rather than a restaurant where I buy something at full price. By earning discounts on Foursquare in a college town like Morgantown you have a good chance of increasing sales to WVU student looking to get a dollar or two off their receipt.”
  • “This application seemed like a friend who could give me advice on where to go.”

SCNVGR

  • “SCVNGR is easier to understand because its main page has all the different ways to check in.”
  • “SCVNGR seems to be focused more on businesses and Foursquare seems to be focused on finding new places and doing new things.”
  • “With SCVNGR I had to check in at a place and do a challenge to receive some kind of reward. Generally the rewards from SCVNGR were more tangible, a coupon or a discount, while most of my rewards from Foursquare were just badges.”
  • “I think that SCVNGR has a better application for advertising and promotion… SCVNGR is an advertiser’s dream because it requires people to buy products or at least come into contact with them in order to get what they want.”
  • “SCVNGR offers a better variety of activities at each check in location.”
  • “SCVNGR creates a more interactive environment.”
  • “The rewards aspect of SCVNGR is more appealing to the advertising/promotions side in comparison  to the pure competitive nature of earning points on Foursquare.”
  • “If you are looking to create a buzz to a level where it will actually generate new business then I would highly recommend that you check out SCVNGR.”
  • “SCVNGR has a call to action that Foursquare is missing.”
  • “I like that the application tries to further involve the user past a simple check in.”

Overall, both advertising and public relations students thought that geolocation-based mobile applications were a great new media to utilize.

  • “I think geolocation-based mobile applications are a really great idea to get people interacting in places that they may not usually visit.”
  • “I think geolocation-based mobile applications are fun and useful once you figure out how to use it effectively.”
  • “Overall I think these geolocation-based mobile applications are a great idea just because it causes others to interact with one another with comments about what they think is good and not.”

All of these findings were quite useful… and inevitably have become part of many of the PR groups’ pitches to potential clients. This project is ending soon. Follow it on Facebook and Twitter (pr_324).

SCVNGR’s influence on sales and brand perception

Throughout the fall 2011 semester my public relations writing and applications students are actively working to bring SCVNGR, the geolocation-based mobile application, to Morgantown, W. Va.

The first question many people as me is, “Why?” Quickly followed by “What will local businesses get from this?”

A recent study by Ogilvy & Mather and Chatthreads contains some insight into the possibilities of this project. Though their study deals with social media (and not mobile gaming) I believe some of their findings transfer.

First, they suggest that social media directly correlates with sales increases. Recent blogs suggest that gamification (via websites and mobile applications) does the same. Consumers get to interact with, engage with and be entertained by your brand. Does engagement lead to sales? An overwhelming majority say yes. Especially with a mobile gaming application like SCVNGR where promotions are designed to get consumers to interact with your brand in the best possible ways — thereby highlighting your brand attributes.

Second, the study suggests that your media should be integrated. For this project students are creating blogs, posting to Twitter, messaging via Facebook (social media) as well as creating news releases, feature releases, social media releases, short teasers, media advisories, and pitch letters for traditional media outlets. Everything is integrated — each piece telling different parts of the whole story. Findigns from Ogilvy & Mather indicate that by combining social media and public relations consumer spending could increase as much as 17 percent.

Third, Ogilvy & Mather’s study suggests that social media directly influences spending and consumption. SCVNGR users can immediately post photos, tips, and comments about brands directly to social media sites Twitter and Facebook — ways that can help influence other consumers in their networks. The 0-1-2 effect shows that the more people we observe doing something the more likely we are to do it. Visibly posting SCVNGR “challenges” to social media will result in this.

Fourth, and not surprisingly, the authors suggest that social media have the ability to rapidly change brand perceptions. Advertising “build-up” is long, taking forever to change brand perceptions. Seriously, don’t we still feel poorly about BP regardless of how many ads (see below) they show? Public relations works a bit faster. We feel better when we seen companies acting professionally and giving back to the community — even if they have done something “bad” (e.g., Phillip Morris donating computers to underprivaleged children).

Fifth, the study indicates that consumer exposure to brands via social media (24%) is much lower than that of television (69%). What this means is less clutter. So, when you look at your SCVNGR application and only see a few companies listed, it means your business is highlighted as one that is forward-thinking enough to include gaming in your marketing strategy. It means you don’t have a bunch of competitors taking away your customers. It also means that when customers use SCVNGR to earn rewards, they will come to your business!

On a different note, I would like to point out that through this service learning project the public relations writing and application students are getting some hands-on, highly relevant experience with:

  • developing mobile promotions,
  • meeting with clients,
  • pitching ideas to clients,
  • creating sales, marketing, and other “pitch” materials,
  • writing for social media,
  • getting media attention for this unique project, and
  • increasing student awareness through events, flyers, etc.
The work they do in this class will result in some very impressive portfolio pieces and will definitely set them apart from their peers.

SCVNGR promotions begin in Morgantown

The PR 324 students have completed their sales letters, process brochures, and marketing plans. They are now poised to meet with owners of local Morgantown businesses to pitch the idea of using SCVNGR to attract WVU college students to their establishments.

This is all part of a service learning project for the Public Relations Writing and Applications course offered by the P.I. Reed School of Journalism. It is part of  a joint partnership with SCVNGR and the International Town and Gown Association. The goal? To improve the local economy through mobile gaming and social media.

SCVNGR is a geolocation-based smartphone game where users can “check in” to different locations they frequent and earn points toward something of value from different businesses.

Clients such as Coca Cola, Buffalo Wild Wings, Gamestop and most recently Duncan Donuts are using SCVNGR as part of their promotion strategy. Even the North Carolina State Fair is getting in on the action, by conducting a deep-fried SCVNGR trek through the fair.

This week the PR 324 students have to come up with interesting Challenges, Rewards and Treks for their clients. Each team should present different ideas to the client (as no one wants to have the same promotions as everyone else, right?). This is going to take ingenuity, creativeness and an engagement mindset as SCVNGR is about interaction through gamification.

I am really excited to see what each team (retail, services, entertainment, restaurants, pubs/beverage) is going to come up with for exciting Challenges and Rewards. I think some of them are even planning Treks (whoo, hoo a Morgantown social media pub crawl:) to get students moving among local businesses. Should be pretty interesting.

Furthermore, I am excited to see how each team plans to get more WVU students to download the FREE SCVNGR application to their smartphones.

Stay up-to-date on all the cool freebies, discounts, and rewards you can earn by checking-in to local businesses. Follow the students on Facebook and Twitter (@pr324_wvu) as they add new Morgantown clients.

As you can see, this service learning experience has many real-world applications for the PR students. Over the next few weeks the students will be creating media pieces regarding the project. Keep your eyes peeled for media coverage of this unique project!

Gamification and Social Media in the Classroom: SCVNGR and International Town & Gown in the PR Writing and Applications Course

Gamification and Social Media in the Classroom: SCVNGR and International Town & Gown in the PR Writing and Applications Course.