2018 Holiday Gift Guide Pitch Kit — Make Sure Your Brand is Featured This Season Download Kit

5 Ways to Improve Your Mobile PR

A recent piece in AdAge discussed a pretty alarming statistic: only 34 percent of PR professionals have a mobile engagement strategy in place.

5 Mobile PR Tips

Out of context this might not seem alarming, but for some greater context consider the Pew Research Internet Project 2014 report on mobile: 90 percent of all American adults have a cell phone, 58 percent of all American adults have a smart phone, 42 percent of all American adults own a tablet, and 19 percent of all American adults use their cell phones as their primary access point to the Internet.

If the aim of public relations is to build “mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” it appears that a large chunk of the “publics” aren’t accessible by an overwhelming majority of public relations professionals. Conversely, one-third of all PR pros are significantly advantaged with the ability to reach mobile users.

What I want to do in this post is consider how some key PR influencers and brands approach mobile engagement. I’ve broken their insights into five categories: setting and communicating rules of engagement, leveraging mobile for internal PR, leveraging mobile tools and technology to be a better resource for journos, mobile awareness and quick reaction, and leveraging crowdsourced advocacy.

1. Set clear rules of engagement

Rules - Improve Mobile PR

What do you think the odds are that the 66 percent of PR professionals that DON’T have a mobile engagement strategy aren’t using mobile channels to communicate? I suspect it’s pretty likely that they do, and Deirdre Breakenridge, author of Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional and Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR, agrees with the caveat that they should take a step back.

Breakenridge says that prior to conducting audits, SWOT analyses, strategy sessions and implementing new mobile initiatives, it is incumbent for PR professionals to vet their social media policy. Topics such as employee access, account management, acceptable use, rules of engagement, security and legal consideration should be articulated before getting into the nuts and bolts of how you’ll execute social and mobile engagement (note that I interchangeably use “social” and “mobile,” although Breakridge’s focus is primarily social). She also proposes to treat a social media (mobile) policy as a living document: as you vet strategy and new initiatives it will necessarily be updated.

PR author Eric Schwartzman takes that thought a step further by stating the obvious: a mobile / digital policy is only going to be as effectively used as it is effectively communicated to employees.

2. Use mobile tools for internal PR

Toolbox - Mobile PR

You’ve seen the statistics on mobile usage, so it makes sense that the best way to communicate policies and information internally is to attach a word document in an email or embed it on a bulletin board, right?

Of course this is silly: internal stakeholders are just as integrated (if not more) than the general public and you have their undivided attention to an extent with internal networks such as Yammer, Bitrix24 and Chatter. There is also text message, email and external social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (depending upon how you choose to communicate).

The most important consideration for communications being will it reach its intended audience and will they read it? Which leads to a completely anecdotal statement about brevity: You can fit 451.5 tweets into one Facebook post. If they could communicate the same ideas (more or less), would you rather read one tweet or one over-indulgent Facebook post? Ahh, brevity!

Mobile is an important tool for internal PR not only as a standalone but as a means to communicate evolving external PR strategy.

3. Become a better source with mobile tools

Mobile Tools - Mobile PR

Digital communications expert Malayna Williams believes that all PR pros aspire to the “golden rule” of news releases: “Give journalists what they want, when they want it.” This seems simple enough, until she discusses the needs of a journalist now compared to how we’ve historically informed them:

  • Three-quarters of journalists have digital responsibilities (blogging / web-exclusive content) in addition to their other writing.
  • 87 percent of journalists prefer to receive press releases via email.
  • Journalists want press releases with content that is easily transferable to digital format.

You can see how the needs of journalists have changed faster than our perception of their needs. And you can probably see how a tool like PRWeb news releases would be rather useful to fulfill this need.

Gerard Braud, author of Don’t Talk to the Media Until… 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to the Media, proposes that PR pros can also leverage technology such as iPhones, iPads, laptops and GoPro cameras to be a real-time media resource during an event. He discusses how he used the technology available to him to get multiple hurricane reports picked up by CNN.

And to that earlier point about brevity, consider this quote from a survey at a past Mobile World Conference:

“PROs need to change the way they write releases. They must be shorter, with bullet points rather than long descriptions. Pictures must be stored on the web.”

4. Improve awareness and quick reaction

“News-jacking” has become a derogatory term for real-time marketing and PR. PR expert Alissa Blate discusses the importance not to make noise but to enhance overall brand strategy. And this is a slippery slope.

For every lauded example of real-time marketing (such as the Oreo Super Bowl ads), there are unfortunate examples of businesses trying to draw correlations between disparate events and products. There is a lot of noise in this space.

Blate identifies a great example of real-time PR by detergent Tide (which in full disclosure is my favorite detergent of all time – hat tip to Sarah Laylo for the introduction). On a NASCAR television broadcast, there was a spill of some sort that the crew cleaned up with Tide. The PR pros at Proctor and Gamble were able to seize the moment and amplify the fact that their detergent was trusted to clean up spillage from NASCAR’s popular vehicles.

Depending upon your strategy, you can capitalize on social listening and quick messaging through social media, mailing lists, digital press releases or even something as elaborate or niche as a mobile app. If you can create real-time content to amplify relevant events, you probably won’t be accused of being a news-jacker. You’ll probably be praised as a PR hero.

5. Leverage crowdsourced advocacy

Mobile PR - Participation

In Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer report there was one clear winner: the crowd. If a spokesperson or CEO tells us something, we are far less likely to trust them than we would an aggregated review telling us the same thing. Mull that over while I tell you a seemingly unrelated story.

I had an old boss who (whilst imparting wisdom to me about managing people) told me that in order to get somebody to do things exactly how I wanted it, I simply needed to ask proper questions to lead them to my conclusions. Of course most everyone would recognize this as nonsense advice (although he could be excused since he was the CEO of the company and shouldn’t have been trusted to give advice in the first place).

The correlation that I wanted to make was that entrusting an aggregation of your customers to advocate for your business is counter-intuitive. You don’t control the message, despite the fact that it is (kind of) your job to. And despite the intense belief of my former employer that people’s opinions can be manipulated by proper implementation of the Socratic method, they can’t. In other words, if your business is not pleasing your customers there isn’t a lot of PR that can be done to mitigate this. But you probably already knew that.

Once you’ve conceded (some) control of your message to the crowd, you can put them to work for you. For example, Hyatt Hotels views their social/mobile presence as an “opportunity to make guests happy.” They use a hybrid of local/corporate social media accounts to tend to their guests’ needs, and in a completely unscientific poll of the Diamond Club Member that lives with me (my wife), they succeed in accomplishing this.

Businesses have the capability to encourage advocates to share their experiences on Facebook reviews, Google reviews, Yelp and other review aggregators. In addition to being important messaging platforms for closed networks, these platforms have the added dimension of informing discovery through search. From a PR perspective, you cede some of your message for authenticity and amplification. But that’s an idealized viewpoint: the reality is that you will be reviewed regardless of whether you embrace it or not.

Mobile PR is simply the process of delivering your messaging in a format that’s most appropriate for your target audience. What I wanted to show were some insights about how you can improve this, specifically by developing clear rules of engagement, updating and communicating them frequently, using mobile tools to improve your internal communication, by understanding how mobile tools can help you give journalists the content that they need to communicate your message with the least amount of friction, leveraging your awareness and quick reaction to deliver appropriate, real-time messages, and to embrace review aggregators to earn the amplification of your advocate customers.

Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders WestFor more marketing advice from Jim, click here.

Image: jon jordan, Edward Simpson, florianric, Michael Coghlan, opensource.com (Creative Commons)

About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.

Recent Posts

Cision Blogs

  • Communications Best Practices

    Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.

  • Cision Product News

    Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.

  • Executive Insights

    Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.

  • Media Blog

    A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.