When LG Electronics crowned 13-year-old Morgan Pozgar - and her speed-demon fingers - national text-messaging champion on April 23, a career in PR was hardly top of mind for the Pennsylvania teen.
But maybe she should consider it: Text messaging, either via standard SMS or a wireless messaging tool such as Twitter, can be an effective way for PR pros to communicate with consumers and journalists alike.
Text messaging "bridges online and offline worlds," says Tony Obregon, director of social media at Cohn & Wolfe in San Francisco. In the case of a client's "treasure hunt" campaign, for example, mobile device-distributed clues "get the attention of an audience, to have them do things in the offline world," he adds. After propelling recipients to take action, he notes, texts can drive participants "to the next level. It's the kind of interactivity that people love to get."
"You really have to know a person to intrude on a cell," says Brian Solis, principal at San Jose, CA-based FutureWorks PR. He favors opt-in communication tools such as Twitter or Jaiku to maintain peer-to-peer relationships with journalists and influencers.
"If I'm working on a big story, or something I want to place strategically ... a tool such as Twitter is less intrusive," he says.
Those tools have drawbacks, too. In the "hands of the wrong people," Solis warns, messages can "quickly morph into spam."
Mike Manuel, new media strategist at Palo Alto, CA-based Voce Communications, agrees that text messaging "has great potential for both good and bad.
"Like any other medium of communication, texting is just another channel," he says. So while sending text messages to a personal device can be more immediate and convenient than e-mail, IM, or phone, a real challenge is establishing and maintaining trust between the text sender and receiver.
Even more important is the recipient's ability to opt in or out, adds Manuel.
"That's the big thing I [stress]," he says. "They must want to receive [messages]. Otherwise, there is huge potential for abuse."
Text messaging is an immediate, cost-effective way for PR pros to communicate with a variety of audiences
Texting should involve timely and actionable information
Text recipients should have the ability to opt in or out; otherwise, messages are little more than spam