Having a Micro-Moment: PR Tactics for a Mobile World

June 3, 2019

Not long ago, I presented a webinar — sponsored by PRSA and the graduate program in communications management at my alma mater, Syracuse University — on why PR pros should start developing mobile-first communications strategies.

As you might imagine, shifting to that mindset is not easy. For one thing, we’re a profession grounded in the written word, and writing is still an essential PR skill. But so is multimedia storytelling.

And let’s be honest, the traditional all-text press release, with long paragraphs and a formal style, is not the most sharable thing on social media. Having to turn your phone horizontal, and then pinch to zoom-in and read something, is hardly a good user experience.

Explore search results

For consumers, news media used to be the most important discovery engine. For PR pros, media relations and publicity were big parts of the value we offered to organizations and clients. Traditional media are still important, but people today who consume information on their mobile devices are more likely to be “outlet agnostic,” meaning they don’t favor one news organization over another.

When people have questions or need information, they seek answers on Google or other search engines — the No. 1 thing we do online. For many people, top-10 search results have become the new front page.

Rather than wonder whether we’ve received media coverage, as PR pros we now have to ask ourselves whether our content will appear when an influencer searches for information about our company or products. Does our website appear in search results when a reporter notices a flurry of activity on Twitter and needs more information for a story, or when a customer has questions before touching the “buy” button on her phone?

Understand why people search

A study by the technology-research company Altimeter found that mobile devices are not the third or even the second screen that we now view, but the first. In the last 10 years, search queries on mobile devices have eclipsed those on desktop-computers.

How often does this scenario happen to you? You’re in the middle of a task at work, when you find yourself turning to your smartphone for information. If that sounds familiar, then it’s because 91 percent of us do it. I know I do.

Google has coined the term “micro-moments” for how we search on mobile devices, and classified them into four main categories: I want to know; I want to go; I want to do; and I want to buy.

How do these micro-moments apply to marketing and communications? “I want to know” is about seeking news and information. “I want to go” refers to people’s interest in retail stores, community events, entertainment, consumer or sporting events, etc.

“I want to do” is all about ideas. So think about developing content that features tips, or 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 be sure your search results provide a seamless path to purchases. Measure outcomes tied to your business goals.

Anticipate audience intent

In thinking about those micro-moments when consumers search for information online, we also need to change how we view our audiences. With the rise of mobile devices and search engines, demographics no longer give marketers a full understanding of what consumers are looking for or why.

Google research has found that if we focus only on demographics, we will miss about 70 percent of our potential customers. And that’s because people’s needs may not have anything to do with the demographics an organization typically targets. For instance, Google research finds that 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. We need to anticipate the audience’s intent.

According to behavioral economist Dan Ariely, we should also consider situations in which someone’s desire for information exceeds the time they have to search for and process it. Booking a hotel is a good example.

When planning a vacation you’ll likely spend time researching various travel websites and deals. But if you’re stranded at an airport and need a hotel room ASAP, the first option you find that’s available and nearby will probably be the one you choose. Companies need to understand circumstances when consumer needs supersede brand loyalty, and tailor their content accordingly.

As communicators, we need to shift our focus from what our companies and clients offer to what the audience is looking for, and when and why they’re looking for it. We need to ask ourselves: What are the customers’ pain points? How can our brand help them? When do they want to hear from us, and on what channels?

Once you have these answers, you can then begin developing strategies to create mobile-first content that reaches people in the moment, and achieves your company’s business goals.


A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks website.

Martin Waxman, APR

Martin Waxman, APR, is CMO of Spin Sucks, a professional-development company for PR and marketing professionals. He also runs a digital communications consultancy, leads social media training workshops and conducts AI research. Martin is a Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning author, a host of the “Inside PR” podcast and a past chair of PRSA Counselors Academy. He regularly speaks at conferences and events across North America. Find him on Twitter @martinwaxman.


No comments have been submitted yet.

Post a Comment

Editor’s Note: Please limit your comments to the specific post. We reserve the right to omit any response that is not related to the article or that may be considered objectionable.


To help us ensure that you are a real human, please type the total number of circles that appear in the following images in the box below.

(image of eight circles) + (image of five circles) + (image of six circles) =