A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure in meeting up with somebody I’ve only ever communicated with via Twitter.  It was a surprisingly sunny Tuesday morning in Dublin, and despite losing my parking ticket whilst cycling over to Merrion Square, and despite the Dublin Bikes app being really poorly designed for helping you find somewhere to drop your bike off.

Despite a Dublin bus that drove by me and momentarily caused the day to become night such was the colour and volume of toxic fumes coming out of it (my lungs thank you Dublin Bus :-p ).

In spite of the challenges I eventually made it to number 16 Merrion Square for my appointed sit down with Lavinia Baciu, the Digital Marketing Executive responsible for pulling the strings of the Irish Red Cross online.

We jumped right into it.

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do here at the IRC?

LB: I’ve been with the Irish Red Cross for 2 years now and I look after all digital marketing aspects of the society. At times, my role extends into digital fundraising and communications as well. We have several audience types, I myself deal on a daily basis with activities that involve first aid training customers and donor fundraising campaigns.

Q: What does an IRC digital marketing exec do on a daily or weekly basis?

LB: The IRC has monthly communications campaigns, and I support each through the most appropriate online activities, depending on the type of campaign: online ads, SEO, email, video production etc. Also, each year we have new digital goals, of which this year I’m working on getting our websites and email templates in web-responsive format, and to increase our content marketing activities. The app is part of the content marketing strategy. Should there be an emergency and the organisation launches a fundraising appeal ( eg our Syria Appeal) , then the appeal takes priority and everything else becomes secondary for a shorter or longer period of time.

Q: We’re chatting today because IRC have just launched a first aid app, tell us a little bit about it and how that came about…

LB: The app is part of a wider Universal App project launched by the International Red Cross. It was built around the principle of ‘everyday first aid’ – We believe that everybody can learn basic first aid and we’re trying to make FA more accessible to the general public, more common place if I may say. The free first aid app is the perfect tool for that.

Q: What is the Red Cross hoping to achieve with this app?

LB: We have 4 objectives: One is, as I mentioned earlier on, is to make First Aid (FA) more accessible. Not everyone can afford a First Aid course, or has the time to enrol. So with the app we hope to bridge that gap and to appeal to parents, babysitters etc.

Second-increase brand awareness about the IRC providing first aid training courses. Last year we trained over 10k people in Ireland and we are one of the main First Aid trainers in the country.

Third – get sales leads for our First Aid Training Department and get contacts for people who want to do a full First Aid course

Lastly to get a broad base of people to download the app and whom we can talk to when the next emergency happens and we launch a fundraising appeal.

Q: What are the benefits of having an app like this for the IRC?

LB: One of the main focuses of the Red Cross is to bring aid to the public when needed. Through Push Notifications the app enables us to have real-time communications with the public, which is a fantastic feature for us. We can now send timely alerts of floods in an area for example. On the other hand, the app is an additional channel for our comms on First Aid training courses and offers.

The approach kind of follows the freemium model : the app supplies the basic tips and information on first aid, and for those who want to go a step further they can enrol with us for a full first aid course also.

Q: So tell us a little bit about what went on pre-launch of the app?

LB: The app was launched as part of our First Aid Day campaign, which this year was on the 20th of September. The project had started 2 months prior to this date and initially I thought that is plenty of time, considering that we are already adapting an already built app to the Irish context – localize content, videos etc.

However towards the end of the project it all got a bit tight, especially during the testing period. I had know from working with websites before that testing sometimes is underrated and more time should be allowed for it. So I got myself an army of testers and several devices and we tested for every single scenario within the app.

It was very tedious but we got it all done. Even so , there were 2 reports of a malfunction. But at least we are very close to perfect, whereas if it wasn’t for the testing, many devices wouldn’t display the app in the best way.

Q: Any pointers for other marketers out there who are considering launching a mobile app

LB: Apps are not for everybody. The app stores are so crowded that the app needs to be either unique or , to have something really worthwhile & useful to say to the targeted, otherwise i wouldn’t do it. We are lucky that we had the opportunity to put out this free content of first aid and preparedness tips, which can come in so handy.

Also before you launch, make sure you test, test, test.

Q: Any really useful things you have learned from being involved with the creation of a mobile app that as a marketer you didn’t know before?

LB: Well, especially on my inbound marketing strategy, I made a mistake. I was so much into having the product finished, perfect functionality, delivered on time etc, that i forgot one important aspect of inbound marketing: make it easy for the prospect to contact us should they want more information, or to even make a purchase – in our case booking a first aid course.

I think it’s important that we keep our focus at all times and ask ourselves ‘why am I actually developing this?’ So now I will work on adding a screen within the app with an easy to fill form for the user.

Q: I’m really passionate about Inbound Marketing and how it can help organisations be more successful, do you see any opportunities in mobile apps to help with inbound marketing specifically?

LB: An app can be an amazing tool if used in the right way to improve all other online and communications activities. I’m big into analytics and learning from it as fast as possible. For example we already know which emergency situations have been most read within the app users.

Bleeding and Burns. So this was passed onto communications, who put out on Facebook and Twitter more content about these emergency situations.

Basically the aim here is to talk and engage the public with the themes that they actually like, want and prefer. And not about what we ourselves think we should publish.

Q: And to finish things off: If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

LB: It would be to be able to fly ! How amazing it would be to just pick a nice spot and make your own way there flying over rivers hills, trees; speeding up, slowing down when you want to; being able to enjoy the wonderful views at your own pace.

Conclusion:

Unlike the Dublin Bikes mobile app, the software created for the Irish Red Cross is top drawer stuff. The app is really fast and has mega useful information that could make a big difference in an urgent first aid situation. I’d highly recommend you ditch the Old Wives Tales and get the real thing today. Sure its free, so you’ve no excuse for not knowing what to do in an emergency.

You can download the app here