Mobile madness has besieged our culture completely. As the Pew Research Center’s report on U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015 indicates, two thirds of Americans own a smartphone. 19 percent rely on that smartphone for online services and information. 15 percent of Americans ages 18-29 heavily depend on a smartphone for internet access. Health information, banking, real estate, job and government information top the list for smartphone users as destinations. 68 percent use their smartphone to follow breaking news, while 67 percent use their phones to share community news and images.
In addition, Cision’s 2015 State of the Media Report found an overwhelming emphasis on mobile compatibility as a key trend, with 36 percent of respondents identifying mobile as the most important overall media trend. We clearly don’t have to debate the rise of the smartphone, seemingly becoming as essential as shoes. We spoke with several PR and marketing professionals to obtain some key tips and best practices from their collective expertise in the space to help make sense of this mobile madness.
Take a mobile-first, mobile-friendly approach
The increase of media consumer smartphone use changes the game substantially for PR and marketing professionals from a technological perspective. The execution of campaigns and messages demands a new set of considerations.
Mike Munter, an SEO and online marketing consultant, noted that “Google recently changed its algorithm to provide better search results for users on smartphones. What this means is every business website is going to need to upgrade to be mobile ready if they want to get found. The marketing impact is simple: You’ve got to upgrade your website to be mobile ready. 35 percent of all organic traffic comes from mobile, and trending up. 68 percent of all websites lose traffic because they aren’t mobile and thus difficult to navigate.”
Michael Harris, partner and co-founder of Uproar PR, pointed out the practical limitations of mobile presentation, and what this means for PR strategy. “On mobile, less content is visible at a given time. You have only a short period to give the user a picture of who you are and what you do. Making sure your site is responsive and that your regularly updated content displays easily, like your blog or social media, is one way to make sure your story gets told on the small screen,” he said. “Mobile puts even more value on online content. The ability to read on the go and get news anywhere and anytime has drastically improved a story’s potential reach. It still nice to see your name in print, but really, the most value comes from your story landing front page of the online version.”
Beyond website mobile compatibility, the details of the message and how it’s presented to influencers are also crucial. Traditional journalists, for example, are very often on the go and working with increasingly limited resources. Easy access to information that is also easily shared is of utmost importance.
Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for SHIFT Communications, specifically noted the importance of mobile-friendly formats when communicating with journalists and influencers. “PR professionals should be intimately familiar with mobile press releases and constructing such content on mobile-centric platforms like Twitter. Twitter cards, embedded with images, carousels, or videos are an easy way to pack a lot of relevant information into a very small, mobile-friendly package.”
Know your audience, do your homework
While crafting mobile-friendly press releases and capitalizing on the power of social media are essential to mobile reach, a firm grasp of audience characteristics and needs is still, as always, a central foundation of good PR, and shouldn’t be left behind while considering mobile strategy.
Maria Gonzalez, senior partner of the Gonzberg Agency, pointed out that PR professionals “must understand what their particular target audience wants. As before the prevalence of smartphone use, this understanding requires doing the right homework in order to frame stories based on a message that resonates with the target — i.e., making sure the story is market-centric, rather than product-centric. Developing that message requires defining your target audience by demographics, psychographics and sociographics (depending on the target, these all can vary dramatically). Having an in-depth, three-dimensional target profile in place not only tells you what makes the target tick and what they want to hear, but also how they want to hear it,” she explained.
Gonzalez noted that while the audience has not changed, necessarily, their mobile habits have changed the way we characterize this audience. “People now research everything at the drop of a hat because of mobile device use. And, they also now have the ability to seek out that information based on their preferences — resulting in a much more highly fragmented media landscape than even a few years ago. Because options were limited pre-mobile, even a ‘one size fits all’ mindset could produce passable results, but that is no longer the case. Modern strategies must take into account this ever increasing fragmentation, and doing so requires using the in-depth, three-dimensional target audience profile to map out the relevant ‘touchpoints’ in their ‘customer decision-making’ journey based on the weighted importance of referrals, media, type of devices in use, etc. And, even with all this fragmentation, any strategy has to ensure that a consistent message comes across — one that is as clear in 25 characters, as in a 30-second video.”
Tell a good story, regardless of format
The fragmentation of the media landscape and decreased attention span of most media consumers dictates a need to adhere to the crux of PR, marketing and any type of media communication: don’t skimp on the storytelling.
Jason Parks, founder and owner of The Media Captain, applied this to a mobile landscape. “Marketing professionals need to tell their own story in a condensed and compelling fashion. Site visitors average less than 15 seconds per page on desktop, and it is even less time on mobile devices. This means outstanding copy, compelling imagery and easy navigation are key components to effectively executing a mobile marketing campaign.”
Dan Lobring, managing director of communications for rEvolution, echoed this sentiment. “At its heart, PR/communications is all about storytelling. So while the technology may change and how people consume media may evolve, at its heart, the foundations of telling a good story have to remain constant. So while you may target a message for a mobile format, i.e., does Snap Chat make sense for my brand, is my website mobile friendly, am I engaging with my fans in real-time around tent pole events, etc.; the bottom line is that if you have a compelling story and you position it in an authentic and engaging way, it will stand out and have an impact.”
As CNN’s Brian Stelter famously noted in a 2008 New York Times article on reaching younger audiences with political news, the attitude that becomes increasingly more evident, especially with younger audiences, is “If the news is that important, it will find me.” Advancing this thought into mobile, it becomes clear that we might now say, “If the news is that important, it will find me on my mobile phone.”
Featured image by James8 via Flickr