Vol. 40, No. 3

The world on your phone: Periscope offers a powerful new tool for bar associations

by Kristen Senz

Live video streaming with the Twitter-owned Periscope application is one way to bring bar members and others into the audience or behind the scenes at legal education seminars and bar association events.

By effectively turning your smartphone into a satellite news truck, enabling you to broadcast live video that is accessible from anywhere in the world, Periscope and similar social media platforms are augmenting the marketing and audience engagement strategies of organizations of all types and sizes, from Fortune 500 companies to media outlets to local nonprofits.

‘Our audience was overwhelmed’

Karen Korr, director of communications and outreach strategy at the San Diego County Bar Association, says Periscope and Meerkat, a similar application, were the focus of a presentation at a recent event the SDCBA organized with the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The event was designed to bring together lawyers, judges and reporters for learning and networking.

The president of the local SPJ chapter (who is also a reporter for the local paper) and the assistant news director for the local NBC affiliate talked about how Periscope works and its implications, Korr says.

“We also demonstrated Periscope by live broadcasting [and showing on a big screen during the program] a few courthouse staff members inside the courtroom of one of our presenters, the assistant presiding judge, and then followed them on the screen as they walked from the courthouse to the Bar Center, where the program was taking place,” Korr explains. “Their entire journey was broadcast for all to see—and frankly, our audience was overwhelmed. Most of them were not aware that this technology existed and were curious about implications legally.”

Launched in March 2015, Periscope and apps that make use of similar technology invoke ethical concerns related to transparency and privacy. And there are indeed many legal implications, both for the civil and criminal law practitioner (Periscope has been used for video piracy, and at least one arrest for driving while intoxicated has resulted from a driver broadcasting her drunken drive home).

But for bar association staff members and others, Periscope also represents a potential new component of a successful marketing strategy. It provides an opportunity to educate those interested in your area of expertise and draw them into your circle.

Inviting the world in

Downloading the free Periscope app and connecting with Twitter enables users to select and watch live broadcasts from a list or a map-based view. Simply click on a channel and see what the broadcaster is seeing, and add comments. Users can also add “hearts” to broadcasts they like and see the number of people who are tuned in to a broadcast at a given moment. Periscope users have the option to Tweet out a link to their live streams, also called “scopes.” They can also choose whether videos are public or viewable only by certain users, and whether or not comments are allowed during scopes.

This is genuine reality television on your smartphone, in real time.

“It is pieces of real life that people are choosing to share with the world—completely unedited,” says Korr, who calls it “the truest form of ‘citizen journalism.’”

Korr herself says she has seen some amazing things, “all unfiltered and unedited,” since she started to use Periscope. These include live broadcasts of a hostage standoff, a fire burning at the Cosmopolitan pool in Las Vegas as firefighters were just arriving on the scene, John Mayer playing acoustic guitar and singing new songs and fan requests from his own living room, and concerts being performed locally and around the world.

“With Periscope, you have the whole world at your fingertips—you can share your knowledge with anyone in the world, build a following, and serve both an educational and marketing function,” says Korr, who plans to also broadcast lunchtime learning sessions where new attorneys ask questions of more seasoned lawyers, “so that attorneys in our county and beyond, and others who are interested, are able to be a part of the discussion.”

Tim Eigo, editor of Arizona Attorney magazine at the State Bar of Arizona, has used Periscope to broadcast the remarks of a guest speaker and journalist who offered his thoughts about the similarities between the journalism profession and the legal profession, including some of the challenges they each face. He says he tends to use Periscope when a legal event might be of interest to the community at large.

“There is something compelling about viewing an event in real time,” Eigo says. “It also builds relationships with event organizers, who appreciate your sharing their event immediately with your audience. There is also something personal about news like this, as you are aware the story subject is addressing you live.”

Want to try it? A few tips

Although it has many intriguing potential uses, Periscope, like anything, also has some limitations, and it can’t replace existing modes for marketing or information distribution. Here are a few Periscope tips for bar associations interested in experimenting with this new tool for audience engagement and expansion.

First, if you are planning to stream a scheduled event, it helps to tell your Twitter followers in advance about the upcoming live video feed, so that more would-be audience members can learn about your work and tune in.

Second, it’s important to make sure your Twitter feed is turned “on” in Periscope when broadcasting, and that you craft a Twitter post, including appropriate handles and hashtags, with your Periscope stream that will alert event organizers and other stakeholders, enabling them to retweet your broadcast link right away.

Scopes disappear from www.periscope.tv/username after 24 hours, but users can capture their scopes using Katch.me. Just add “#Katch” to your stream, and your broadcast and related comments and hearts will be recorded. KatchHQ keeps a link you can use to share, replay, rewind, and fast forward your scope. To watch popular scopes and find out about top scopers, visit PeriscopeTV.me.

Finally, be aware that Periscope can eat up your phone’s battery power quickly, so use it judiciously.

Part of the newest generation of social media platforms, Periscope may be most valuable to bar associations that have more than one staff member available to document association news and events. However, used in the right context and with adequate preparation, even a single live video stream could prove to be a powerful tool for helping to raise awareness, support and engagement.

Kristen Senz

Kristen Senz is editor of New Hampshire Bar News and works in the communications department at the New Hampshire Bar Association. She can be reached at ksenz@nhbar.org.