PR’s New Moving Target: Developing Effective Content in a Mobile-First Society

First appeared in O’Dwyer’s Magazine, Nov. 2015.

From the moment we get up in the morning until we fall asleep, a majority of the world’s citizens are connected to others via a mobile device. The growth of mobile phone and tablet use continues to skyrocket.  By the end of 2015 there will be 4.88 billion worldwide mobile users and 5.09 billion by the end of 2016. (Footnote 1)

Every smart company– whether a Fortune 50 company or a neighborhood small business—is evaluating better ways to move applications, tasks and sales to mobile devices.  As PR professionals, we must also adopt this “mobile-first” mentality if we are to keep pace with those we are trying to influence.  It’s not just using mobile as a way to respond to email when we aren’t at our desk or make a call from any location.  It’s crucial to design communications according to the mobility of the audience and the boundaries of the device.

Not only can we get better results when dealing with reporters and other influencers, but we can also use the mobile channel as a direct, real-time connection to the consumer.

How can we implement a mobile-first PR strategy?  As is true in any planning exercise, we must ask ourselves: What’s our objective?  What motivates our audience? What media do they consume? When do they do it, how and why?

Let’s start at the beginning of the day.  How does our target consumer or reporter get their information and news?  Many have their mobile devices—either phone or tablet—by the bed.   If you’re like me, the minute my feet hit the floor—or sometimes before—I’m reading critical email and looking for breaking news.  Consumption of the information we need to do our jobs or simply to follow what interests us—continues throughout the day.  Once we are in the work environment, we may switch to a laptop or desktop.  The minute we leave this real or informal “desk” we’re back to mobile. Most people use their mobile device between 4.7-5.6 hours a day, and usage has been growing at a rate of approximately 10 percent annually. (Footnote 2)

I’ve identified six areas that should be factored into the development of a mobile-first communications strategy:

Choose the channel according to your target’s mobile lifestyle. 

Most technology, business and consumer press are sophisticated when it comes to using mobile and popular social apps.  Depending on individual preferences, Karbo Com will pitch reporters via email, text messages, video, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  When attempting to reach current or prospective clients, we use email, video, text, instant messaging (e.g., Gchat or Slack), Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. When developing a direct-to-consumer strategy, the task is more complex.  Device and app use varies greatly by age group and content. For example, if you’re trying to reach someone between the ages of 18-34, social channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Vine and Periscope are popular.  But not all social is equal.  According to comScore, the most popular mobile based apps for this age group (with the exception of music apps) are Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat. (Footnote 3).  My agency was one of the first to target social media for B2B enterprises.  For B2B today we tend to focus on email, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.

Design content for a mobile-first channel.

More and more frequently, pitches, posts and content will be read on a smart phone and less so on a tablet.  It’s critical that correspondence, website and any other content be designed to properly display on the most popular mobile platforms—iOS and Android.

Of course, laptops afford the luxury of a larger screen and more consumption time, allowing added levels of detail and nuance for the more focused mind.  On the other hand, mobile phones are designed for short attention spans, so a pitch, ad, video or post must have immediate impact and fit within the constraints of the platform (e.g., a two-line text, a 15-second video, or Twitter’s current 140 character limit).

Up the creativity game.

There are also different expectations in terms of creativity according to the device and the applications on that device.  Many tech reporters get hundreds of pitches a day, so using a medium such as Snapchat gives the freedom to do something different.  When trying to reach consumers, bear in mind the high volume of social media feed posts to compete against.  Again, take advantage of the opportunity for creativity the mobile platform gives.

Consider where the content will be consumed. 

Develop content for the time of day during which it will be consumed as well as the location.  Think in terms of the attention span that tends to accompany the device.  While mobile devices have eliminated the boundaries of the work environment, there are still factors to consider depending on where and when content will be consumed.  Will it be viewed in a relatively quiet environment—at a desk at the office, on the couch at home, or on public transportation or in a crowded cafe?  Where it is consumed will affect how distracted readers will be and how they react to its delivery.  This can be a tougher call because some reporters, for example, don’t mind if you DM them while they’re on a bus, whereas your content may miss the mark completely if a consumer has to concentrate on a subtle post or Instagram video in a crowded restaurant.

Take advantage of community and viral factors. 

Evaluate whether or not content should reach one person or influence an entire community.  If content is customized for the individual, use one-on-one methods such as Twitter’s DM, Facebook Messaging, email, text or a phone call.  Will readers want to share it?  Should they be sharing?  If there’s an opportunity to inform a larger community, do so.  Keep the messages appropriate, and never make the initial recipient feel like they’re a personal pipeline without benefit to themselves.  Better yet, design content that influencers will want to share.

Constantly adjust strategy based on efficacy.

Like any other PR program or tactic, mobile-first PR’s worth must be evaluated and when necessary, adjusted.  This is even more critical given the speed and innovation inherent in mobile communications.

Mobile-first PR presents a wealth of opportunities for the experienced PR pro.  It can deliver tremendous results when implemented with an understanding of the unique characteristics of the medium.


Footnote 1:

Footnote 2:

Footnote 3: comScore Mobile Metrics, U.S., June 2015.