Wednesday, August 08, 2012
How my new bracelet is going to change PR

Last night I was in a bar, desperately defending my decision to buy a Nike+ FuelBand to a couple of friends. Here's how the conversation (kinda) went:

Them: Haha! You've bought a bracelet that lights up. Cute.
Me: It's an activity tracker! It measures my activity and sends it to my phone and social networks.
Them: Teehee! What's the point? How much did that cost you?
But as I was writing this blog post, something beautiful happened. Drew Benvie, my #1 frenemy and the big boss at Hotwire PR, tweeted about how his agency is buying everyone that works there a FitBit (same thing as a FuelBand, but a bit cheaper). Talk about timing, Drew.

For everyone else who isn't yet convinced that 'body hacking' technology is going to change PR, here's why. Concentrate, as I'll only say it once.

Social media changed PR because it let brands know what people were thinking and saying. Wearable technology takes that to the next level as it lets brands know what people are doing.

Sooner or later, everyone will be wearing something (a wrist band, a watch, a pair of shoes) that is passively sharing data to some form of internet site or network. This is beyond location-based services, as we can trigger actions based on what people are doing in real time.

Devices like the Pebble, due out before the end of the year, will talk to services like IFTTT. Before we know it we will be tweeting about things we're buying or checking into places without having to interact with a device at all. This is the obvious next step for social networking.

Actually, it's already happening - know anyone that uses Nike+ in their trainers and then shares their workout stats to your Facebook wall? I'm sure you do. It's annoying now, but once Nike converts FuelPoints (their new standard metric of activity that you earn as you work out) into something you can convert into discounts for Nike clothing, gym membership, or healthcare vouchers, we will all be doing it.

Nike+ is already a pretty good social platform on its own. My FuelBand allows me to see everyone I know on Facebook who wears one, and then compete with them for points. I am passively connecting, every day, with six people (colleagues, clients and friends) who are also wearing them. I may not speak to one of my best friends very often, but we are connected, without us needing to do anything, all the time. I really like that feeling.

Now consider how well a big company like Ford is integrating social media into its cars (and beyond), including a proof of concept service that allows you to start your car just by having your phone in your pocket...

The phone that knows your activity levels and location. 
The phone that is connected to your social networks, and financial data. 
The phone that knows what time it is, and where your next meeting is. 
The phone that knows the road between you and your next meeting is blocked. 
The phone that can suggest to you that walking might be better for your FuelPoints.
The phone that just told you that Starbucks is on the walking route and that you have enough FuelPoints for 50% off a skinny latte.

Sound like the stuff of science fiction? All of the above is possible right now, and can easily be powered by the 'bracelet' I'm currently wearing on my wrist.

But this will only start to snowball once the brands, and the people who advise them on their marketing strategy, start waking up to the power of wearable, connected technology.

What's the point? The future of our jobs is the point.

I'm off out for a walk.