Should PR invest to gain the technical capability needed for mobile campaigns?

Bite's David Hargreaves and Euro RSCG's Eric Edge offer opposing views on whether PR should invest to gain the technical capability needed for mobile campaigns

Yes

David Hargreaves, Formerly GM of Bite in North America
Setting up Next Fifteen's new digital agency, Project Metal, to be launched this month

If we as PR practitioners believe our role is limited to managing reputation and crafting the message, then we should just stick with the skills we have.

However, if we want to take advantage of the changes that are taking place to redefine our role, now is our big opportunity to do so. With the dramatic growth in smartphone usage and the fact that 3.3 billion people already have a mobile, almost double those who have access to a PC, the role of mobile as the gateway to getting information about and interacting with a brand is only going to increase.

Our core currency used to be the written word but, as media has fragmented, it is now equally about rich media content, including iPhone apps and mobile sites. Today's successful brands are becoming publishers and provide individual customers with the platform for telling the brand story in their own words.

The implications for PR agencies to create successful campaigns in this new world are clear for everyone to see. It's no longer just a matter of us understanding how to tell and craft our clients' stories in the most compelling way. Now, it's also crucial for us to understand how we can create mobile content.

If we fail to invest in people who possess the creative and technical skills to make use of technology like geo-location or augmented reality, PR agencies are going to be severely limited in their ability to exploit an incredibly important medium. Creating a new revenue stream for agencies is one thing, but it is even more vital that firms have the ability to propose creative campaigns that use technology in new ways and can be delivered on time and to budget.

To do all this, PR needs to bring in new skills to deliver earned-media campaigns that represent a new type of converged thinking. To ignore mobile, in a world where the gateway to engaging with brands and information is increasingly mobile, would be a bit like setting up a PR firm 10 years ago without anyone who could write. l

No

Eric EdgeGlobal CCO, Euro RSCG; EVP, Euro RSCG PR
Straddles the PR and ad disciplines, having joined Euro from Draftfcb

Getting clients to the future first is the name of the game. And I don't doubt that mobile represents much of where communications is headed. But the strengths of PR agencies are making clients' brands and messages relevant to consumers and businesses globally by identifying the precise characteristics that will drive buzz. Their strength does not - and should not - lie in creating technical know-how to implement the nitty-gritty of a mobile campaign.

If PR agencies invest and grow the technical capability to implement mobile, what they are really going to do is create a silo. It will be a silo that may understand coding and developing mobile apps, but one that goes against everything a PR agency should be tackling: growing strategic thinking, understanding the future of communications and how the traditional rules of PR are no more, and, importantly, becoming more and more a part of the overall communications program for the client, with an equal seat at the marketing table.

What PR really must do is continue to invest in the most forward-thinking, dynamic talent out there who understand that social media is more than a buzzword and instead is really a communications revolution.

With the number of users who access Twitter via mobile tripling and Facebook mobile access doubling in the past year, understanding the best strategic approach to being part of this new plugged-in world is where PR needs to be playing.

So what do you do when a client asks for an integrated PR program? You deliver. If you have the right people in place who understand how to incorporate mobile concepts and ideas into the overall plan, you can easily work with a partner to implement the technology behind these programs. It's no different than putting on a PR event. You contract the build-out of the site and set, but the PR agency comes up with the overall idea and strategic plan.

The reality is that PR should be strengthening its mobile capabilities, and fast, just not on the technical side.

PRWeek's View
It's imperative that PR professionals understand mobile as a channel, but technical expertise isn't necessarily the route to follow. Instead, offering smart, strategic counsel on mobile will further elevate the industry's effectiveness.

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