Last month, while running errands one day after work, I received a breaking news alert on my mobile phone: Explosion rocks Midtown Manhattan.
My first thought was concern. Our offices in New York City are located a block from Grand Central Station. Beyond the text alert, I wanted to see what was going on, but it was too soon after the explosion for a video stream on VCast, and I wasn't near a TV, so I had to get to my laptop and go to CNN.com to see what was going on.
After seeing where the blast occurred and learning everyone from our office was OK, I was reminded of how I felt in the early days of the Internet: Everybody knew it would change things, yet nobody really knew how big it was going to be. The same could be said of today's nascent mobile platform.
When Brodeur launched Fidelity Investments' first Web site in 1995, many journalists didn't even know what a Web site looked like. We literally had to send them hard copies of HTML pages to show them what we were talking about.
Back then, the idea of a reporter giving you his or her e-mail address was ludicrous. "I don't want PR people to be able to reach me that easily" was a common response. Can you imagine reporters doing their jobs today without e-mail?
Fast forward to today. How many reporters will give you their mobile phone numbers so you can alert them to breaking news? How many receive breaking news briefs on their phones like the one I just received? And how many watch streaming video on their phones? Probably very few.
Analysts agree that ubiquitous mobile data services like video streaming are still some way off. Unlike Korea or parts of Europe, usage is low in the US, but I believe we're at a tipping point. In the next two years, as more smart phones make their way into consumers' (and reporters') hands, demand for mobile content will spike.
Are we ready to serve? We need to answer a few questions:
Why do the media need to think about mobility? Because smart phones will make "real time" a true reality and will change the news business, again. Whether it's breaking news or staying in touch with sources, reporters increasingly will rely on mobile devices.
Why do marketers need to think about mobility? Because their consumers will spend more time with their mobile devices than anything or anyone else. The ultimate personal connection to brands can be made if companies can figure this out right.
Why do PR people need to think about mobility? Because PR will not only influence how, what, and when content is delivered, but we also will innovate on our own. We need to think responsibly about our constituents and understand the power of delivering messages in "snack-sized" packages.
It won't be long before we're looking back in amazement at what life was like when you couldn't be completely connected to the world from your mobile phone. It'll take our best creative thinking to drive the content people want and need to their "third screen." There are some encouraging signs, but we need to "get mobile."
Michael Brewer is EVP of the consumer marketing practice at Brodeur.