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The mobile web is essentially ubiquitous at the point. We have access to nearly any piece of information we need in most of our pockets. We can watch baseball games, record a video and bash egg thieves with Angry Birds.

As communications professionals, how we put our messages together for the mobile Web is essential. How we craft strategies to tell our stories and create media that utilizes the mobile platform matters. Only 15 months after its launch, mobile text messaging platform textPlus announced that more than 3.5 billion messages had been sent.

According to a recent Comscore report, 81.7% of mobile users in Europe sent a text message in June, 2010. In Japan, 75.2% of mobile users browsed the internet, accessed applications or downloaded content from their mobiles. In the table below, you can see the most popular destinations mobile users access from a mobile device.

Top Mobile Social Networking/Chat/Blog Brands in Japan, United States and EU5 (UK, DE, FR, ES and IT) by Audience Size

June 2010 Total Mobile Audience Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens

Japan United States Europe
Mixi Facebook Facebook
Gree MySpace YouTube
Twitter YouTube MSN / Windows Live / Bing
Mobage Town Twitter Twitter

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us needing to develop strategies for utilizing the mobile Web as a communications channel.

SMS: Simple Messaging Solutions

At this week’s BlogWorld Expo, I will be a part of a panel with special guests Kenny Hyder, who has years of experience in SEO and mobile optimization, and Dave Fleet, VP of Digital at Edelman Toronto. We will be discussing the importance of mobile content for bloggers and in the communications industry.

There are three factors to consider when assembling a mobile plan: content, accessibility and integrated strategy.

Smart phone apps limit the interaction with the Web as a whole, so the need is to create content that is easily portable, easily found. This content is brief, to the point and actionable (yes, I know this post is more than 500 words…). It conveys your message and messaging but is also portable and gives the reader a reason to act and share the content.

But getting that content found is becoming more of a challenge. Applications that are single-purpose have limited our interaction with the broader Web. Having an understanding of search, accessibility and the ability to drive actions through a mobile device will help us create integrated strategies that provide value to a wide network of readers.

Global mobile Web

XKCD Map of the social system

XKCD made this map to show the relative scale of various social networks. The various social networks occupy how we interact. But the real impactful part of this is in the detail in the upper left. Spoken language is still about 90% of our interactions. But in most of the world, SMS is the number one form of digital communication. Email still trumps all, but even that is just a portion of our communications.

Spoken language is still about 90% of our interactions.

Photo from XKCD social universe graphic. The more we isolate ourselves on the islands of Twitter or the Bay of Flame in the blogosphere, the more of a disservice we are doing to those that our content could reach.

Being aware of how we tell our stories and how we integrate the multiple technologies that surround us to tell those stories will make our communications strategies that much more effective.

Posted in PR

We deal with them every day. We spend hours crafting pitches, preparing background documents and making sure they’re happy. But how do we decide who is and isn’t an influencer?

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Social Fresh conference in Portland (for some other takeaways, you can read them here)  recently and I wanted to know how some of the attendees defined who they considered an influencer.

As you can see, the definitions covered the spectrum. In a world where everybody is a publisher, we need to be wary of who we call an influencer. As PR practitioners, we are trying to maintain gold standards while making sure we are getting our clients the best results possible.

Time management

The biggest challenge on PR pros in a world where “influencer” is a fluid term is managing our time asks. Sometimes it’s the smallest of outlets that take the most time.

So how do we decide where to spend our time? In my opinion, we can look at some simple metrics to determine how we allocate our most precious resource.

Impact: This isn’t about eyeballs. This is about action. When this person publishes an article, do people listen and act? Do they generate traffic, signups or sales? Spend some time with them.

Engaged: If they seem to genuinely care about the announcement, chances are they can become a champion for you. Spend some time with them.

Audience: There are two parts to this: Passion and interaction. If the person’s readers are commenting and a conversation generally happens around each post, this helps the “long tail” of an announcement. Spend some time with them.

So, who should you not spend some time with? Quite simply, anybody who can’t help you define your goals.

Now it’s your turn: How do you define an influencer? What effects your perception of a potential pitch recipient? What causes you to say no?

My good friend Aliza Sherman has a great post over on Web Worker Daily about the evolution of the blogger relations model.

The model of “blogger relations” is one that is constantly evolving. I think that both sides are learning what works best for them.

Ideally, the relationship is symbiotic. We pitch, they write. Our clients are happy, their audience is happy.

I think that by bringing up alternative ways to engage bloggers shows a couple of issues at work. First is the blogger vs. journalist argument. Sponsored posts and such don’t work for the bloggers that are considered journalists. Being mindful of that, there are still creative ways to engage. Take the “media tour” of old. Instead of setting up in a metro daily’s conference room, we are bringing clients to coffee shops, neighborhood haunts and home offices to chat with this new era of influencer.

But there’s still room for the “traditional” model. Working with people who blog as part of a news reporting organization (news paper, online media etc…) The goal is to drive coverage for our clients while providing elements that are genuinely “newsworthy.” (what passes for newsworthy is another discussion) We can do so by engaging in a genuine conversation with our pub targets. My advice? I think a solid model looks something like this if you’re able to do it:

  • Obviously knowing your target is job one. Make sure they’re appropriate. If you have doubts, imagine what they’ll feel.
  • The difference between “please write about this” and “I would love to hear more about what you’re working on and how this can fit in” is huge.
  • Keep the relationship professional. This is hard. We know when our reporters get married, get fired or get scooped. But I think it’s important to keep the focus on the client and what your outreach brings to the table.
  • Be brief. Be right. Be gone. Keep your outreach focused and to the point.

So, what do you think? How is this model changing and how are we changing with it?

A word of advice: I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a registered financial adviser. This is my opinion only and should be treated as such. For guidance, consult your legal counsel.Originally posted at PRBreakfastclub.

If you are in PR, IR, corporate communications or social media, chances are you’ll run into fun rules such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Regulation FD and FINRA guidelines. One of these things these rules have in common is that they are behind the times.

But the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has taken a pretty large step in modernizing the rules that financial services companies must follow while engaging in social media and PR. You can download the FINRA social media guidelines as a PDF.

The big takeaways

The important pieces of this update are the changes to the definitions of static and interactive content. Under the new rules, “Examples of static content typically available through social networking sites include profile, background or wall information.” This information is treated like an advertisement and is subject to regulator approval processes.

Interactive content is a bit more flexible. Tweets, blog comments etc… are interactive content and do not require the approval of an approved regulator. One of the interesting challenges, however are the monitoring and archival requirements.”firms may adopt procedures that require principal review of some or all interactive electronic communications prior to use or may adopt various
methods of post-use review, including sampling and lexicon-based search methodologies as discussed in Regulatory Notice 07-59.”

Others are discussing these social media regulation changes and giving advice on how to proceed as well.

The big impact

I know this is a bit more heady than what we normally discuss, but it’s important. Our society is changing. The way brands interact with us is changing. And the need for the government to monitor those interactions is changing.

As communications professionals, we need to be able to provide sound guidance for our client. But at the same time we need to be innovative in our approach to engaging with our target audiences. To that end, the best advice I can give is know the rules and come as close to breaking them as possible.

Having a policy in place is also essential for firms looking to engage in social media. Having a set of rules that outlines approved interactions will help avoid confusion and potential violations. But in doing so, make sure you’re consulting your legal counsel.

The times, they are a-changin’…