Best Apps for PR Pros (and Road Warriors)

This is not a new, or even particularly innovative topic – but it’s a question I’m asked a lot, and worth an update once or twice a year. My job keeps me on the road quite a bit, and I find myself frequently traveling with both an iphone and an ipad. Both can get a bit cluttered after a few months, and it’s the time of year that I find myself ‘spring cleaning’ to pare down to what I really need. Which includes:

Tripit Pro: Yes, it has an annual fee. But if you are a road warrior, it’s worth it. The alert system on flight changes is tied into the airlines in a way that somehow, magically, has alerted me to flight cancellations up to two hours before the airlines themselves get around to it. On three separate occasions this year, I’ve been able to re-book before my co-flyers even knew there was a problem, more than making up for the $50 annual fee.

United Airlines App: It’s free! And it makes using their paperless tickets so easy and convenient…also, you can switch seats while waiting in line at TSA.

myAT&T: I’m not endorsing them as a service provider (trust me, there are still issues). But if you travel internationally, particularly to Mexico, AT&T it pretty much your only choice. Their mobile app allows me to quickly switch the service plan on and off, literally from the tarmac, to make sure I’ve got international rates, texts, and data set up correctly (and I never think to do it until I’m about to leave; it’s a lifesaver).

PS Express: the photoshop app may not be free, but it’s another one that is worth a few bucks. I’m able to edit images on the fly, with a wide variety of tools and filters, all in an easy-to-use format.

Amazon (on ipad): If you travel frequently, you know the pain of constantly being out of dog food/toilet paper/birthday presents for your mom. Amazon has a really easy interface and one-click shopping. Last year I upgraded to Prime, and have never looked back.

Fleetly: this app is really more of a social network for the fitness community. It helps me stay on track when I’m in different time zones, gyms, and general chaos. I particularly love that I can build my own workouts (usually when I spy something in Fitness Magazine, for example, that I want to remember) – and then track exactly what I did on any given day. It’s not for everyone, but I really like the social aspects and the badges.

Evernote: My long running love affair with Evernote is showing no signs of slowing down. Not only do I use it to keep notes on the fly, and to-do lists, and save articles for later…I also use it to take quick pics of receipts while I travel, saving me tons of time on expense reports.

Travel Guide: Colorado and Marijuana

So it turns out that John Denver had it right decades ago, and Colorado (a state which, indecently, chose “Rocky Mountain High” as the official state song several years ago) has now legalized Marijuana for those over 21. For residents, this is more of a semantics change; it’s been “medically” available for several years for those with a license (sidenote: I don’t. No judgment, and probably 1/3 of those in my social circle do, but am not a subject expert on plant varieties or grow houses, etc). Pot is so widely available, in fact, that the local weekly has an entire guide which, among other things, covers deals and specials.

These changes won’t take effect until 2014, and the Feds may still challenge it (as our Governor said tonight, “federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly”). But hey, don’t overlook that Colorado is now in a very unique position to capitalize on a whole new type of tourism. Of course, those willing to hop on a plane are probably looking for an experience they can’t get at home. Which raises the idea of a whole cottage industry; will there be Mary Jane Guides? Step-on bus tours? Sommelier-style training? A whole new take on Farm-to-table? No matter which way it goes, Mary Jane’s visitors should know a few important things:

  1. Culinary is an important part of the current industry. Infused food is referred to as ‘edibles’ but there is a crazy amount of variety, and some stores actually market themselves as ‘supermarkets.’ Not just weird candies; there are restaurants that have tapas, pizzas, even gluten-free ice cream. Seriously.
  2. Not every county in in Colorado treats this issue the same. Places like Denver and Breckenridge are mellow; some other counties, not so much. Plan accordingly.
  3. It’s still not OK to wear tie-dye as an adult. Not ever. 
  4. Forget Yelp or Tripadvisor; there are whole review sites just on this topic. Although, I kinda want to see what happens when you submit a review into either of those. Hmm. Please try that, tell me how it goes.
  5. Um, duh, but Medical marijuana is still considered a controlled substance that impairs a driver’s ability to control a vehicles. IE, you are subject to DUI rules. Which shouldn’t need to be pointed out but…it does.
  6. Don’t take home souvenirs. I may have my suspicions about certain TSA-friends (holla, DIA), but still. Just don’t.
  7. Regardless of the outcome of the election, Denver has been crowned “America’s Cannabis Capital” by marijuana advocates. Some claiming that there are more dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks coffee shops in the whole state of Colorado.
  8. We’ve already begun preparation for this monumental event. Mary Jane’s Pizza is only open from 11 p.m. to 4:20 a.m., 7 days a week for all your munchies needs.

Thanks to co-author @KristinGritt, who is also endlessly amused by how many long-lost friends have called to couch surf after hearing about the vote.

Startup Love: Fortnighter

A coworker recently stumbled across a website called Fortnighter (he may have seen it on Gadling last week), and sent it my way knowing my obsession with online travel-related sites. In short: travel writers (unbiased, qualified editorial sources who know the destination well and aren’t being subsidized to promote a specific hotel/restaurant/shop) provide a customized itinerary for your upcoming trip, for a nominal fee. They take into account variables like who you are traveling with, cuisine & hotel preferences, etc. I tested a few rough trip ideas, and pricing ranged from $100 – $200; substantially more than buying a guidebook, but still not unreasonable when calculating the amount of time I generally spend obsessively researching in advance of trips.

Thrilled to see another potential revenue stream for freelance travel writers, who’ve seen paying content gigs dwindle over the last decade. Not yet sure how they will stack up in a world where content has become widespread, easy to access, and largely free for consumers. Playing into the weakness of all that free travel content (there’s just SO MUCH online these days, it’s hard to sort out relevant details) by creating a service for personalized data intuitively feels like a great idea, and I’ll be watching to see how it evolves. There’s a lack of social media integration in the site, but it just launched and assume this will be worked into future web phases – if only because this seems like the type of service that will live or die based on word-of-mouth endorsements from people who have used it. Also, would love to have a point-to-point map included in the itinerary (and maybe a link to a google map, so I can navigate from my phone on the ground. Because I do that too. A lot.) a la Tripwiser

Bottom line: smart concept, with a site that is clean and easy to navigate, and room to grow. 

Crash Course: 8 Things to Know if This is Your First TBEX

If you’re heading to TBEX for the first time this year (and judging by the registration numbers, there will be some new faces), here are a few tips gleaned from previous conferences. If you’ve been before, feel free to add your own at the end:

  1.  If you arrive to Vancouver early, there will be a flurry of casual #tweetups that are worth checking out. Just follow the #tbex11 hashtag and you should be able to figure out where people are at (also, FourSquare was pretty invaluable late night in NYC). On a related note, TBEX straddles the middle ground of a conference and an “un-conference” (like Podcamp). While the TBEX crew does an amazing job organizing a deep array of formal programming and events, there are a lot of self-starters in the mix. Everything from a morning run to a late night mechanical bull outing will pop up. Go with it. Some of the most interesting, fun parts of TBEX happen outside of anything on the formal schedule.
  2. Be prepared for people to look NOTHING like their Twitter avatar. While there are exceptions (@EverywhereTrip and @mikebarish, for example, are pretty easy to pick out – although the line of people waiting for autographs helps), many people use funny or quirky images on Twitter. Sometimes it took me most of the conference to connect a face with a Twitter handle, and I wished I paid closer attention to names the first time I met people. On a related note:
  3. Not everyone will respond to a Twitter handle in conversation. Referring to people that way can be awkward. This year’s name badges will have both real names and Twitter handles, but for the newbies: it can be a little disconcerting when people walk up and say things like “Hey, NerdsEyeView, I love your Penguin posts!” It’s worth spending time pre-conference figuring out real names of people you want to connect with. Think of it as the difference between “Lady Gaga” and “Stephanie.”
  4. Just because you follow someone online and know a lot about them does not mean you automatically have an IRL connection. Don’t be a creeper and start a conversation with someone you just met with something intensely personal.
  5. photo courtesy of @ItalyLogueAnyone who makes a living full-time travel writing/blogging is likely to have a genetic mutation that results in a spare liver. The rest of us mere mortals should not – under any circumstances – try to keep up with them at the open bar (photo courtesy of @Italylogue). Related:
  6.  If you do something goofy/stupid/involving too much alcohol, it will be photographed, blogged, tweeted, tagged and will make it around the world long before you have time to apologize to your mom for being a very public idiot (she will have seen it on Facebook hours before, trust me). Remember how wired TBEX’ers are before any bad decision making.
  7. If you can afford it, buy a lithium battery charger so that you can keep your laptop/phone/iPad/whatever charged. There’s just no way for any host to have enough electrical outlets for TBEX.
  8. This year’s conference is going to have concurrent sessions (meaning unrelated, simultaneous live-tweeting), and I’m already seeing a lot of spam using the conference hashtag. Be prepared for Twitter to be less useful during the actual conference than in the past.