Monday, October 13, 2014

Some important apps

Now that smart phones are part of just about everyone's PIO go kit, I have gotten a number of questions about what's on my phone. I have to admit, I have a few which I'm sure don't do much for me as a PIO (how about a rousing game of Battleship?), but there are a few that have really helped me while in the field, especially in light of recent events.

The Sony Xperia Z1s
First, let me start by telling you what platform I am working on. I have Sony Xperia Z1S. It's a pretty awesome Android-based phone with a huge screen, great camera and - best of all - it's waterproof. That's a huge plus, especially here in semi-tropical Florida.

I'm not here to promote that particular phone or the Android operating system - I'm sure many of you are using various iterations of the Apple iPhone, Windows based phones or even Blackberries, so if I tell you about a particular app that I use, I'm sure you can find a similar one for your phone of choice.

A screen full of apps
First, I'm sure you are using your phone for taking pictures, making phone calls, accessing the Internet and managing e-mails. They all seem to do this pretty well.

The big social media platforms - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram ... the works - all have their proprietary apps that fast track you to your account of choice. One thing you might want to consider, though, is moving to a social media aggregation program such as Hootsuite, which can post to multiple social media platforms at once for you. It saves a few steps for you in the field, and can help make your social media coordination that much easier.

Dictating notes into a smartphone
You can always rely on your built in note program for taking down details at briefings. I discovered (remember, I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack) that by using the phone's built-in voice recognition software, I could dictate notes to myself. This made it a whole lot easier to read my chicken scratch notes. Let's just say that my teachers used to recommend that I become a doctor.

A few photo and video apps I use include Photo Resizer and Media Studio. These programs allow me to adjust the sizes of photos or trim video to length right from my phone - a definite plus while working in the field. Media Studio even allows for some basic video editing as well, This is where iPhone users have it over us Android types... both iPhoto and iMovie are built from the ground up integrating with the Apple iOS.

Skype is also a great app to keep on the phone, since it gives you the ability to do a live interview - if need be - with the news office while getting both audio and video.

My phone cradle with my phone.
I would throw in a few other accessories. First, a cradle mount of some type that allows you to hold the phone a little steadier. I have a Woxom Slingshot, but it appears that it is no longer available. Trust me, though, there are tons of other options.

The other thing I would recommend is some type of waterproof cover for your phone. Yes, mine is waterproof, but I discovered that water on the screen makes it just about impossible to operate. From a simple sealable freezer bag to a high-end dry case for your phone, get something to keep it dry when the skies open up.

I'm sure I must be  missing some important details here, but I think this is a fairly decent start for stocking your phone to become a lean, mean PIO assistance machine.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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