They’re popping up everywhere. Little squares of pixilated flotsam and jetsam that at first glance don’t look like much. But looks can be deceiving! These unassuming little squares, called QR Codes – short for Quick Response – are packed full of valuable information to those in the know, almost like a digital version of the TARDIS on “Doctor Who.” (Apologies for the geek reference.)
They provide a new way to reach target audiences with your public relations messaging. Let’s take this in “byte-sized” chunks, shall we?
A QR Code is a matrix barcode (i.e. a two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. Like all barcodes, when scanned, a QR Code provides the scanner with access to data at high speed. This data can take myriad forms, but we’ll get to that. While a popular QR Code format consists of black rectangles arranged in a square pattern on white background, other variations exist, notably the High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) developed by Microsoft, which uses clusters of colored triangles instead of the square pixels traditionally associated with 2D barcodes. Each format has its backers, but so far there is no “universal standard.”
The QR Code has a fascinating history – originally used by can manufacturers to track vehicle parts, the use of these codes by marketing and public relations practitioners is becoming commonplace via convenient applications for mobile phone users (a practice known as mobile tagging). Another bit of trivia – the act of linking from physical world object such as a QR Code is known as a “hardlink” or “physical world hyperlinks.” Now you know!
The information encoded into the QR Code can be used to display text, open a URL, compose a text message or e-mail, or add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to name just a few possibilities. You can create and print their own QR Code for by visiting one of several free QR Code generating sites – as some might have already discovered by scanning the QR Code at the top of this post! Today QR Codes appear in magazines and catalogs, on signs, buses, business cards, and on just about any place where you might want to include additional information.
So how can you use QR Codes to provide your audiences with more information? Here are just a few examples:
- To lead visitors to an online press release or newsroom.
- On your tradeshow booth to save money on printed collateral.
- To put an end to copy-heavy ad collateral by including a code linking to additional information.
- On your website to help people sign-up for your online newsletter or RSS feed.
- At the end of your next presentation to allow the audience to link to the online version at SlideShare, or your website.
- On nametags at your next event so other participants can capture attendee contact information quickly and easily.
- On product packaging and other places where you have limited space for additional information.
Do you currently use QR Codes in your public relations program? If so, how do you use them? We’d love to hear from you.