mobile communicationsThe shift to mobile communications isn’t always easy for marketing and communications pros.

For one thing, we’ve relied on news releases as our primary format far too long.

(And I’m not talking about instances where disclosure or regulations require one.)

I mean, let’s be honest, the traditional all-text release, often shared as a PDF, is not exactly inviting on a mobile device.

In fact, it can be quite the opposite.

Anytime you need to turn your phone horizontally, and then pinch to zoom in on text, is not what you’d call a positive user experience.

So where do we begin?

Search is the New Front Page

When I started my agency, media was our audience’s most important discovery engine.

And the stories that resulted from media relations or publicity was a big part of the value we provided to our clients.

Of course, we all know social media changed the equation.

Yes, media are still important.

But people are a lot more outlet-agnostic when it comes to finding news and information.

We turn to search. And those top 10 results.

You could say search is like the new front page.

So rather than wondering if we got coverage, we should be asking: Are we there:

  • When a travel blogger has an urge to check for info about your city?
  • When a reporter notices a flurry of activity on Twitter and needs to find out more information for a possible story?
  • Or when a customer has a question and needs some extra help before pressing buy?

Mobile Communications and the New First Screen

A study by Altimeter found that mobile’s not the third, it’s not the second, it’s our first screen.

And in the last 10 or so years, mobile use has gone from virtually nothing to 81 percent penetration, with search on mobile eclipsing desktop.

Not only that, three-quarters of people believe smartphones make them more productive.

I’m not sure about that, but they certainly provide immediate gratification.

Think about your day.

How many times does this happen?

You’re in the middle of a task at work, when all of a sudden you find you’re turning to your smartphone to find out something else.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because 91 percent of us do that.

I know I do.

This Brings Us to Micro-Moments

Google coined the term micro-moments to describe people’s behavior on mobile devices.

The company broke down our needs into four main moments: ‘I want to know, I want to go, I want to do, and I want to buy’.

Let’s translate these moments to marketing and communications.

  • “I want to know” is all about awareness, that’s the place for news and info-focused stories.
  • “I want to go” refers to specific locations or events. Think retail, community engagement, or big consumer or sporting events.
  • “I want to do” is all about ideas. Develop content that features tips, lifestyle stories, white papers, if your business is B2B, or how-to videos that help rather than sell.
  • “I want to buy” is pretty obvious, but you need to make sure you have a seamless path to purchase and that you’re measuring outcomes tied to your business goals.

Micro-Moments and our Transactive Brain

Micro-moments have become intertwined with what scientists call our transactive brain.

That’s the way we encode and store collective memories.

For example, we all know a film buff that has the answer to any movie-related question. Or a foodie with a recipe for everything.

Now we’re outsourcing that part of our intelligence to the internet.

The results are replacing information we used to find from the shared intelligence of people in our social groups.

And it’s an opportunity for brands to create meaningful and relevant content.

Intent Beats Demographics

In mobile communications, we also need to shift the way we view our audience.

For too long marketers and communicators have relied primarily on demographics to reach customers.

But with the rise of mobile, demographics no longer give us a full understanding of what consumers are looking for at that instant when they decide they want it.

If we’re only focused on demographics, we’re missing out on about 70 percent of potential customers.

Because people’s immediate needs may not have anything to do with who the organization is targeting.

For instance, 40 percent of baby products are bought by people in households without young children.

And 45 percent of home improvement searches are done by women.

Which means you need to anticipate your audience’s intent.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely says we should also pay attention to time pressure in situations when our desire for info exceeds the time we have.

The content people want has to be situation-specific.

A good example is thinking about how you might book a hotel.

If you’re planning a vacation, you’ll probably spend time researching various sites and deals, and maybe even choose a brand you’ve dealt with before.

But if you were stranded at an airport and needed a room ASAP, you’d probably choose the first good option that was available and close by.

Companies need to understand the times when consumer needs supersede brand loyalty, and create content tailored to that.

What This Means for Your Brand

As marketers and communicators, it’s important to shift our focus from traditional to mobile communications, and come up with big ideas for the small screen.

We can do that by getting a handle on what our audience is looking for and when.

Figure out:

  • What are your customer’s pain points?
  • Where do they go during the day?
  • How can your brand help answer questions and solve their needs?
  • When are your customers open to our messages and content?

Once you have the answers, you can begin developing a strategy and creating mobile communications designed to achieve your company’s business goals.

And of course, you also need to promote it using the PESO model to make sure our customers discover you and how you can help, when they’re in the moment.

Are you a mobile-first communicator? What tips would you offer?

Photo by Jono on Unsplash.

Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman, MCM, APR, is a senior advisor to Spin Sucks and runs a consultancy, Martin Waxman Communications. He leads digital and social media training workshops, conducts AI research, and is a LinkedIn Learning author and one of the hosts of the Inside PR podcast. Martin teaches social media at McMaster University, the Schulich School of Business, Seneca College, and the UToronto SCS and regularly speaks at conferences and events across North America.

View all posts by Martin Waxman