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Using mobile platforms to find new mindshare

Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Baeza via Flickr

As public relations and marketing professionals grow increasingly comfortable with online social platforms, many are beginning to turn their attention to mobile applications as a new source of brand impressions. To that end, I’m at MediaBistro’s ThinkMobile conference this week in New York. The venue is a comedy club called Comix, but the communications and media pros here see the mobile marketplace as no laughing matter. Many view it as the most promising environment for the future of media content and brand mindshare.

One reason is the highly “sticky” nature of all manner of news and entertainment content served up in mobile applications for platforms like the iPhone, Blackberry or Google Android. The rise of mobile apps harkens back to a time when desktop applications commanded our attention for longer stretches of time than the Web pages that we flitter across so quickly on a desktop machine. Because mobile apps can prominently display brand logos and be customized for look and feel, mobile platforms give brands a chance to “reclaim their brand image or their brand identity”, says Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark, a mobile software firm.

Michael Schneider, who leads Mobile Roadie, another mobile app development outfit, describes the phenomenon as a form of tunnelvision. “When you’re in an app, you’re just surrounded by that brand,” he says. Jennifer Stenger, an Associated Press executive who is helping the news service move into the mobile market, says users of its mobile apps view 10 times as many pages of content as those who visit its news sites on desktop machines.

Mobile application development has grown from a cottage industry into a mature marketplace over the past couple of years. The smartphone marketing is growing in kind, as Nielsen mobile media analyst Chris Quick pointed out later in the day. Over the next 2 years, smartphones will go from making up about a quarter of the mobile handset market in the US to more than half, he says. At that point, mobile platforms will become even more crucial to content strategies for brands and media outlets.

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