Senior account executive, Text 100
Second Life only looks like a game.
"This is a place where people are really gathering and forming communities," says Aaron Uhrmacher, senior account executive and member of the digital lifestyle practice at Text 100. Uhrmacher played a lead role in making Text 100 the first large PR firm to have an island in Second Life's virtual parallel universe.
Uhrmacher, 29, has always had an interest in technology and video games. That interest has converged with his PR career, offering innovative communication conduits. The majority of his work is to help clients use new technologies and social networking to reach an increasingly savvy consumer.
"A lot of these companies are still looking at blogs and trying to figure out how to leverage that to communicate with their audiences," says Uhrmacher.
Uhrmacher graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in English and political science. After travels in Asia, he came to New York with the desire to do something creative and was drawn to the "intricacies" of PR.
He has earned respect from his bosses and colleagues because of his ability to make hi-tech projects accessible to a wide spectrum of people.
"There's a danger in people heading off and sounding like geeks of the new world," says Aedhmar Hynes, Text 100 CEO. "He makes it very practical, and has a pragmatic approach to outlining where this fits into further pushing communications."
Uhrmacher's work with the World Cyber Games, the largest computer and video game festival on the planet, is an example of that aptitude, says Hynes.
In addition to the new media that you would expect to publicize the event, Uhrmacher worked the event into the general media, getting prominent coverage in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and got feature story coverage in Sports Illustrated.
"Our task was to bring this to a wider audience and show this could be a viable spectator sport," says Uhrmacher.
Hynes adds, "That's a fundamental PR skill that takes years to learn. His thinking was ‘This is becoming mainstream by virtue of the number of people playing, so why shouldn't this be in the mainstream media?'"
Working with Text 100 since May 2005, Uhrmacher is already teaching others. At the Arthur W. Page Society in April, he made a presentation to society members and journalists about the virtues of the virtual world.
"We quickly recognized that [this world provided] an opportunity for companies to communicate their brands in a much bigger way than just having a Web site," says Uhrmacher.
And in ways that real life won't allow. Uhrmacher believes press conferences in the virtual world offer interactive features that aren't available in the real world, and have the ability to accommodate displays and demonstrations in novel ways.
"Now that we're there, what are we going to do to add value?" Uhrmacher asks.
The learning process continues.
Hynes says that Uhrmacher "wants to make sure he's learning normal PR," but he has the foundation needed both online and offline. And with so many new worlds yet to be discovered, there are plenty of places for his career to go.
"I think this is just the beginning," Uhrmacher says.