Why the PR industry must embrace mobile

Apr 30, 2010

By Vanessa Horwell

Reprinted from

As just about everyone knows – and as absolutely everyone who reads this publication knows – we are living in the mobile era.

Mobile is the defining communications channel of our time, improving upon – and in some ways eclipsing – the online channel.

As might be expected, many businesses and other organizations have been quick to capitalize on the marketing opportunities presented by mobile. But in the area of public relations, mobile has yet to become a dominant force.

Certainly mobile Web-enabled programs such as Twitter have left a mark on the PR industry. However, the fact remains that most PR professionals are not leveraging the mobile channel optimally, or even scratching the surface.

As the PR industry continues along the path of commoditization, it becomes critical that PR agencies begin to embrace mobile, not just because of the channel’s immense potential – although that should reason enough – but because mobile communications are some of the most direct, immediate and actionable communications available.

These attributes are what make the mobile channel so effective for marketing and sales, and what can make the channel an invaluable tool for PR practitioners.

That said, marshalling mobile for the service of PR is not as simple as it might seem.

While some aspects and outcroppings such as Twitter are accessible, getting the most from mobile on a PR campaign will almost certainly require partnerships with industry experts and knowledge.

As regulations and best practices continue to evolve as the mobile channel matures, there is a great big grey area of protocol to follow, largely unknown by anyone outside the immediate industry.

This, in turn, presents a major hurdle for PR firms trying to use mobile in a similar way to how they use voice or online communications in their strategies and tactics.

Most agencies do not have the technical capability to implement a large-scale mobile campaign, and fewer would find a positive return on the infrastructural investment necessary to develop that capability.

But assessing the value of mobile in this way is truly counterproductive. Instead, the process of developing mobile partnerships should be viewed as a great opportunity.

The more conversant PR professionals become with mobile, the more services they will be able to offer clients.

Becoming a mobile-capable PR firm through strategic partnerships with mobile solutions providers is a very good way to carve out a profitable niche. More importantly, it is a good foundation for the future.

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Why is embracing mobile important for PR firms?

Consider the size of the media market mobile represents: 90 percent of U.S. consumers own a mobile device.

In every metric that matters, consumer interaction with their mobile devices are on the rise: 137 million Americans have access to the mobile Internet, and 67 million consider themselves active users. Smartphone penetration is currently at 17 percent and rising.

What these numbers indicate is that more people are consuming media through portable devices, a phenomenon that will only increase with the explosion of iPad copycats. Mobile is where the audience is at.

If a PR firm’s job is to tell and disseminate clients’ stories in the most effective manner possible – and, of course, we believe that it is – then those stories must also be told in the mobile space.

At the risk of repeating myself, forging the right partnerships to facilitate mobile outreach is critical.

There are scores of companies currently operating in the mobile sector, from full-service mobile marketing and advertising firms to boutique mobile solutions providers.

A PR agency should be able to find a partner with the right depth of experience and a set of capabilities that match the agency’s aims.

There is no time like the present to begin engaging in mobile visibility strategies. It is an important next step for the PR firms that want to remain in the forefront of their industry, or are looking to get a leg up on the competition.

Simply, it is time for PR to get mobilized.

Vanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, a marketing communications firm in Miami, FL. Reach her at

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