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by Gerald Baron: Crisis and emergency communication strategies

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Why it's smart to think smartphone first
May 07, 2012
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It used to be, like yesterday, that when thinking about communicating with the public smartphones were a bit of an after thought. As in--Oh yeah, we have to make sure this works on a smartphone too. But we are quickly coming to the time, if we aren't here already, where smartphones are the first and primary tool to consider.

This new research by Pew makes it clear how important the smartphone is for users in connecting, getting instant information and doing work. 86% of smartphone users in the previous 30 days used their devices for "just-in-time" uses. These include coordinating a meeting, solving a problem, deciding to patronize a business such as a restaurant, looked up info to settle an argument they were in (I can relate to this one), look up a sports score, get traffic or transit info, and get help in an emergency situation. Remarkably, 19% of smartphone users used it for these emergency purposes.

In an emergency, is your info "just in time" type info? For those who are directly affected, absolutely. You need to think of your crisis and emergency information as just-in-time info which means that the smartphone will likely be the device most used to access it. Are your info releases smartphoned? If you use Twitter, yes they are. If not, maybe you should think about that. I still believe very strongly that your agency or company website, or crisis-specific sites, should be the primary place for your incident communications. But this means they had better be smartphone readable from beginning to end.

If you are building web sites, doing video, creating web apps, or any system to facilitate public communication. Now, not tomorrow, is the time to think smartphone first.

---Update

Here's more information on the growth of smartphone use from PR Daily. Included is some very good advice on how to write for smartphones. Upshot: simplify!

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