PR in the Smartphone era

By Melanie McKay

It will come as no surprise that people are increasingly using different devices to get information. Recent Colmar Brunton research shows that nearly the entire youth population - those between 16 and 29 - own a smartphone, and that nearly half also own a tablet.

As for what they're specifically using these devices for, again no shock that social media is right up there in this age group, with 87 per cent saying those are their favourite apps. News apps are used by 48 per cent of youths, with that jumping in popularity to 72 per cent with white collar workers.

With 60 per cent of us already using more than one device, and that only likely to increase as the cost particularly of tablets comes down, it still comes down to one thing - content. No matter what device people choose, we need to find a way to tell the story.

And while we just can't keep doing things the way we have always done -  crafting and issuing the old inverted triangle media release to traditional media simply won't get the cut through and exposure our clients want - maybe we don't all need to become scriptwriters and videographers just yet.

Increasingly we are the content creators across all mediums and platforms, and the change in the smartphone era relates to how information is presented and the format, not necessarily to what the information actually is.

For instance, it's about adjusting content that is topical, relevant and engaging for search engines so it's interesting to the people who find and read it online. Releases also have to be shareable so that people pass them along to friends in social networks.

The biggest difference is that PR people need to think about visual appeal in the smartphone era - before a visual element was nice to have; now it's essential. And while copy is shorter and sharper, it actually needs to offer more in depth material, for example through links to content to allow people to drill down if they choose.

Headlines have always been the 'trailer' for stories, but now PR people need to think in terms of the traditional movie-style 'trailer', as that's what is playing an increasing role in making readers decide if they want to look at the content or not.

Really, what it all means is that regardless of your audience, every PR strategy or campaign has to take into account people accessing their message and material via smartphones and other devices. It's about crafting content to match the channel, and making it more adaptable.

That could be as simple in some cases as:

  • Including more links, for example to research and bios and/or social media profiles
  • Adding more images and including their source code with the image URL so as to provide more options for media, and interest for audiences
  • Tagging content with key words that will make it easy to find in search or social sites
  • Adding icons that connect to all a client's social content and providing sharing links.

It's not rocket science, we just need to do what we do well - craft great content  - and extend ourselves to ensure it's appropriate for the audience and the increasingly digital world we live in, where people are wanting to consume information in a different way.

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