Appalanche! Mobile apps proliferate as communications medium

January 10, 2012

Pop music star Sting held a news conference at a New  York Apple store on Nov. 15 to announce his Sting 25 “appumentary,” an iPad app with historical interviews, music videos and concert footage promoting a career-spanning CD box set of the same name.

Similarly, Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc.’siHeartRadio app repurposes audio and commercial messages from 750 U.S. radio stations, extending its traditional content to a more interactive format.

The app era is in full swing, from mainstream to niche. Online searches show an abundance of apps spanning business, entertainment, news, productivity and lifestyle categories. Apps are even getting age-based ratings this year, like those used to rate video game content.

Half of all U.S. adult mobile phone owners have apps on their phones, according to a study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The study reveals that 74 percent of adult app users download news-oriented apps, including those updating weather, sports and investments, followed by 67 percent who download apps to communicate with family and friends.

Another Pew study (in collaboration with The Economist Group) regarding tablet news consumption says that 11 percent of Americans have purchased tablets in the less than two years the iPad has existed. Fifty-three percent of them read news on tablets daily, with 33 percent read from sources that they did not previously consider and 41 percent read articles that they tagged for later.

Fanfare for the common man

Much of this app-tivity, so to speak, lends itself to public relations.  You don’t have to be a music mogul or global brand to use apps as a communications medium. Development cost estimates range from a few thousand dollars for simple apps to tens of thousands for elaborate apps. Communicators typically have strong relationships with creatives and design experts, so tap your networks for possible cost advantages.

Communication strategist David Meerman Scott developed his own iPhone and iPad apps with Newstex, a real-time content technology company, which include his blog posts, Twitter updates, videos and links to his Amazon bookstore profile. This is a perfect content marketing activity for someone who makes a living teaching such tactics.

Apps can support many messages and purposes. Hunter Public Relations of New York created its “Faceboo” app, allowing users to simulate Halloween-themed press releases while generating agency awareness.

The Roberts Group, a health care communications agency in Waukesha, Wisc., helps client Saint Francis Medical Center of Missouri populate its Saint Francis Medical Partners app. Created by Dr. Edward Bender, the app helps patients locate offices and learn about their physicians’ specialties, medical school affiliations and residencies.

“Technology is helping people take better control of their health care,” says Katie Stensberg, emerging media specialist for The Roberts Group. “Apps that successfully create awareness and communicate with an audience benefit from a focus on basic human needs.”



Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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