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How Mobile Technology Affects PR Professionals

Posted At: September 29, 2008 12:25 PM
by Miranda Yow

Wireless technology is directly affecting business professionals in every field—and public relations is no exception. Whether in a meeting or on the go, mobile devices have become an integral part of a PR practitioner’s everyday life. When pondering this idea of wireless technology and public relations, two main questions come to mind:

  • How can public relations professionals use wireless technology to the advantage of themselves and their clients?
  • How do we use this technology without abandoning our professional standards?

How can public relations professionals use wireless technology to the advantage of themselves and their clients?

This question can be answered simply with one word: connectivity. Public relations demands constant connectivity. What does this mean? It means that PR professionals must always be ready to act. Whether it is 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, a practitioner’s job is to always be “on call” for whatever may happen to the company or organization they represent.

This is where mobile technology is extremely useful. A PDA or a smartphone can be a PR professional’s lifesaver. These mobile devices allow immediate response to clients, fellow employees and media contacts. Let’s face it; PR is not your normal mundane office job. You are not always going to be in front of your computer. Therefore, having access to communication via cell phone, e-mail or text messaging is necessary.

Picture this: You are at a grand opening for client A, and you get a call from client B who tells you one of their products is being recalled. They demand that you stop the media from running anything about the recall until all communication points are written and approved by their legal department.

Imagine what would happen if you did not have your mobile device. You wouldn’t be able to send e-mails to the media or make calls to urge them to wait to write their stories about the recall. In fact, you would not have even received client B’s phone call in the first place.

In addition to immediate response, wireless devices allow access to breaking news via text messages. Caran Smith, PR manager for the Verizon Wireless Alabama/Georgia Region, says, “There are a number of ways PR professionals can use wireless technology to stay connected to the information they need to be successful. Text messaging is a great way to get breaking news alerts as well as keep connected with clients and colleagues. It’s a quick, easy way to get critical information out without having to be at your computer.”

As a PR professional and an expert in wireless technology, Smith knows about the many benefits of a wireless device. “With so many choices available, it is easy to get overwhelmed when deciding which device is best for you. It really depends on how you’re going to use it,” says Smith.

“If you need access to e-mail and other corporate data, a smartphone such as a BlackBerry or a Motorola Q 9m might be ideal. Others may want more multimedia features so the new LG Dare or enV2 would be perfect because both offer access to e-mail but also music, navigation, video and more. When choosing, think about what makes you most efficient when you’re out of the office and what will help you best maximize your time,” says Smith.

How do we use this technology without abandoning our professional standards?

This issue comes up quite often in the business world. The challenge is to not lose etiquette at the cost of gaining connectivity.

Today, it is extremely rare to find someone who does not own a cell phone. In fact, many households are discontinuing their landlines and using only their cell phones. This brings us to the second question. How do we use this technology without abandoning our professional standards?

Smith suggests, “If you’re in a meeting, make sure your phone is on vibrate or silent and let calls go to voicemail. If you must take a call, step out or send a text message letting the caller know that you will be in touch as soon as possible. Also, follow the rules of any public place, such as hospitals, airplanes, etc., that restrict the use of wireless devices.”

“It really comes down to common sense. The technology advancements make it possible for us to stay connected in a number of ways including but not limited to talking,” says Smith.

Here are a few helpful tips to remember when using your wireless device:

  • Know when an e-mail, text message or phone call is urgent enough to respond.
  • If you are in the midst of a meeting, sometimes it is best to quickly skim the message, and then get back to that person when the meeting is over.
  • If the meeting or conference call is extremely important, do not take your cell phone in with you or simply turn it off.
  • As with all e-mails and text messages, it is often difficult to decipher emotional tones. Be particularly careful when using a PDA or smartphone; you are more likely to shorten sentences and phrases, which at times can be taken incorrectly.
  • Abbreviated e-mails and text messages, especially to clients, can be seen as unprofessional. Be mindful of whom you are sending the message to.
  • Some PDAs and smartphones (especially BlackBerrys) allow you to personalize your signature. Be mindful that every person who receives a message from you will see this signature; keep it professional.

“Wireless technology has become part of how we live our lives today both personally and professionally. However, it is up to us to use it appropriately,” says Smith.

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