Nov 22, 2010

Jenkins! Is it the year of mobile PR yet??

The Web is awash with statistics and predictions about the rise and rise of mobile usage, mobile operating systems, network operators, on-deck vs. off-deck, apps, app stores, open vs. closed, devices, demographics, technographics, smart phone penetration, data plan trends, carrier revenues, app store market share and many other data points.  Mary Meeker’s latest Web 2.0 Summit presentation is certain to be circulating the boardrooms of the world and as soon as her deck hit the web middle managers were girding their loins for the inevitable C-suite query, “How’s our mobile strategy going, Jenkins?”

How’s your mobile strategy going?  Because, after years of hearing that this year is the year of mobile, this coming year probably will be.  Using Meeker’s mobile slides as a guide (full deck on Scribd here, the YouTube video is here ), here’s why:

  1. Slide 8: Apple iPhone + iTouch + iPad Ramp
    We have known for a while that take up of the mobile web is out pacing other adoption curves; there was a similar slide in her 2009 presentation, so there’s no excuse for not knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is fast moving train and we’d better get on or get out of the way.
  2. Slide 9: Mobile Operating Systems
    The statistics on the growth of Android vs. iOS have been repeated ad nauseum, but their competition will accelerate the market for mobile apps and that is creating exciting opportunities for engaging customers and audiences in very focused and personal ways.
  3. Slide 10: Smartphone > PC Shipments Within 2 Years
    This is starting to get interesting… The number of smartphone shipments are projected to surpass PCs in 2012.  And it’s a sure thing that smartphones are going to get smarter. But will the networks be able to keep up with the demand for data?  U.S. carriers are shifting away from flat-rate data plans as they need consistency in their margins to invest in the infrastructure to keep up with our data usage.  In Japan, however, flat-rate data plans have been a key driver for mobile internet take-up, so…
  4. Slide 11: Japan Social Networking Trends Show How Quickly Mobile Can Overtake Desktop Internet Access
    Mobithinking.com have some interesting analysis on Japan and other mobile markets and it’s clear that not all the elements that contributed to such a huge take-up of the mobile internet in Japan are present elsewhere.   Taken in combination with other trends on mobile usage, however, it is abundantly clear that consumer usage  of the mobile Web via apps or mobile sites is growing, will be enormous, and has a strong social component.

All of which is nice, but what does it mean for PR?

In terms of media relations, unless you’re working in technology, it seems there is a limited take up among journalists in use of mobile to consume PR-related content.  A PR Week / CC Group survey bears out our own research among users of PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ) that they tend to prefer desktop tools to mobile ones when it comes to reviewing PR material.  But this is changing.  The surge in social network usage via mobile is impacting how everyone interacts with phones, and over half the media (both new and ‘old’) who access PRNJ or PRNewswire.com own a smart phone and over a third would consider accessing these sites via mobile phone.

There is also a growing body of research that journalists  look for story ideas and research using blogs and social media sites.  So ensuring your content is posted to the social Web gets your content where they’ll find it (and helps build links back to your site).

For direct-to-consumer/customer/shareholder/stakeholder communications the take-up varies by demographic and industry, but the trend is the same across the world: mobile usage up and it’s driven by social use cases.  The key for us here is understanding our audience and how they want to engage.  What is exciting for PR and marketing professionals is the nature of the engagement if we get it right.

At least one of my mobile devices (I’m afraid I have four) is within my reach 24 hours a day.  Mobile alerts I have set up reach me immediately.  Apps that I love I return to again and again and again.  I have freely handed over my contact details and personal details in return for offers and promotions (‘spam’ in any other context) that match my preferences.  Now I’m not conceited enough to believe I’m in any way unique.  Slightly more nerdy than most maybe, but not unique, and there is evidence that if you are able to give your audience something of value and create a relationship in such a personal space, you will create high degrees of engagement and ROI.  Here are two examples, one B2B and one B2C,  of what I mean:

  • If you were at PRSA in Washington D.C. this year you can’t have missed PR Newswire’s PRNGame, where delegates could scan QR codes with their phones to earn points, learn about PR Newswire and have some fun.  The game generated a huge amount of buzz at the conference and sparked hundreds of conversations between delegates and PR Newswire people manning our booth.
  • InsightExpress presented a Powermat case study at the IAB Mobile Marketplacein New York this summer.  The campaign used Booyah’s geo-based game MyTown to allow users to interact with Powermat products and enter a sweepstake when they checked in to stores selling Powermat wireless chargers.  According to Joy Liuzzo of InsightExpress the campaign  produced results three times greater than traditional ad campaigns and outperformed all norms for aided awareness, ad awareness and intent to purchase.

I acknowledge that on the face of it both my examples have more to do with marketing than PR, but all the people who engaged with PR Newswire and Powermat are influencers whose opinions are valued to varying degrees by their peers, and  mobile is very, very social.  Creating personal, positive experiences with these individuals will have an affect that lasts beyond the measurement of short term ROI.

So do you have a mobile strategy?  And should it really be categorized as ‘mobile?’  Personally I’m looking forward to the day when ‘mobile’ is as ubiquitous and noteworthy as wallpaper.  And that the mobile strategy of my fictional, middle-management ‘Jenkins’ is not mobile, not strategy, but a regular part of his day job that earns him happy customers and the warm glow of appreciation from the C-suite.  Well, one can dream…

Authored by Rod Nicolson, VP User Experience Design & Workflow, PR Newswire

Image created by djme via Flickr Creative Commons

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