Optimizing PR Tactics for the Smartphone Era: A Preview of Ben Garrett’s Upcoming Talk at PRSA’s 2014 Counselors Academy Conference

19. March, 2014
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When it comes to giving advice on how to leverage social media in a comprehensive public relations campaign, most PR pros feel confident in their expertise and are getting pretty darn good at measuring and monetizing social media. When it comes to other mobile experiences such as mobile web sites and branded mobile applications, however, there is much more that PR pros can offer clients to ensure that their message is effectively delivered across multiple devices and screens.

Ben Garrett leads the Ben Garrett Group, a global network of digital media professionals who help their clients communicate via a variety of platforms ranging from live television broadcasts to the mobile web. I asked Ben to give us a taste of some of the topics he’ll be covering in his talk, “The Future is Mobile: Optimizing PR Tactics for the Smartphone Era,” at the 2014 PRSA Counselors Academy Conference this May 4-6 in the Florida Keys.

Which key mobile trends are most relevant for PR practitioners to be aware of now?
I think with the increasing use of tablets and smartphones, we have to recognize the fact that the growing majority of our audience is consuming web media through these devices. And as I work with clients’ websites, too many were designed before this trend even emerged. So if your clients’ websites and online press releases are not optimized for mobile and these kinds of devices, they are losing out on influencing a key audience that may actually become a majority, not just a niche. I also think the geo-locator functions of many apps and devices is just as an important—your clients may be able to target their customers or constituents more efficiently and effectively than ever before. The good news is that a lot of these apps are as easy to use for the creator as they are for the end user. Mobile is also social by its nature; many social strategies which were not effective 2-3 years ago are suddenly vibrant and extremely relevant.

How could these trends affect the way they develop and monitor their integrated communications campaigns?
If leveraged effectively, mobile can invigorate any existing campaign. You’re automatically reaching a dynamic audience with mobile, one that is already on the go and perhaps ready to pay your clients a visit. Monitoring takes on a new dimension with geo-locator services—if you have an unhappy customer in the lobby, you may find out about it in Foursquare or Twitter live, and be able to interface directly with that consumer to solve the problem. If you have a website that doesn’t work well on Android or the iPad, then you’re losing out on a potentially affluent and savvy consumer audience with proven earning power.

What are some common mistakes that PR practitioners make when trying to bake a mobile strategy into a traditional PR campaign?
I think the most common mistake is omission. But you must also be prepared for success. Many people are surprised when these strategies actually work and are not ready to respond appropriately. Whether your goal is to drive customers or accumulate Facebook “likes” be prepared for the potential volume and realize that mobile and social tends to be more 24/7 than traditional tactics. Make sure someone is minding the virtual store, even if it’s just mirroring responses on social media.

When should an agency consider doing a branded app? When would a responsive web site be better?
Some apps make obvious sense, i.e., travel and retail apps, others can be clunky and not worth the ROI. There’s a limit to how many apps someone wants on their smartphone. I think you have to consider the demographics of your target audience and the usefulness of the app. Are you adding value to the relationship? I think in most scenarios, a responsive mobile website is going to be superior. The site can also highlight geo-locator options that make many apps so successful. That said, many clients are impressed by app capabilities and having a dedicated branded app might put them in a special category and give them a competitive strategy. A very under-used app is the most basic SMS text messaging—that’s something everyone has even if they don’t have a smartphone, and most text messages are ready within 3 minutes of being sent, so that actually becomes the most proven and effective means of interaction if someone has “opted in” to receive the texts.

How can PR firms command greater influence over a client’s mobile strategy?
I think I’ve had most success doing a mobile and social media audit or overview of a prospective client. How do their sites look on iPhone, iPad and Android tablets? Do their videos play correctly? Can you conduct e-commerce on mobile? Are their sites responsive to different browsers, i.e., Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox? I think because mobile and social are so tied together with the general public, that public relations is in the sweet spot in terms of being the right discipline to lead the charge. This is more than a marketing/advertising kind of relationship; it can go from a virtual to a “real” relationship that connects a client or brand on a deeper level with its fans, constituents and/or customers.

If you’re an agency owner or principal and have not yet signed up for the PRSA Counselors Academy Conference, there’s still time.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch up with Ben, our other experts, and your peers over three glorious days on the beaches of Florida.  Trust me, I live in this state, and it’s pretty sweet. Learn more and join us!

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