Could this be the year of mobile based campaigns for India?

Earlier this month, at a recent restaurant complex in Gurgaon; Coca Cola India set up a coke dispensing vending machine. If you downloaded the Coke app, you could then use it to scan and get a free Coke can.

There was quite a rush in front of the vending machine, a visible sign of the high degree of presence of smartphones in India. Currently, India is the second largest smart phone market in the world- ahead of the US.

Yet, PR campaigns making use of mobile channels are not yet commonplace in India.

But, this could change in 2017. Harjiv Singh, Founder & CEO, Gutenberg believes that, “ The PR industry in India should leapfrog its’ peers in other countries in terms of use of mobile given the rapidly expanding base of smartphone users in India. This trend underscores the importance of understanding the changing nature of how PR agencies reach audiences. Today, the largest media companies are not CNN, Times of India or BBC but Facebook and Google both of which are battling for supremacy in mobile. Mobile phones have a larger reach than newspaper, TV or radio, but more importantly are a tool to access content provided by newspapers, TV, and radio.”

The large number of smartphone users in India, on the face of it, provide a strong base for mobile based PR strategies in India.

Singh advices that, “PR has to be very strategic when it comes to mobile phones and we need to differentiate between owned and earned content when planning a mobile strategy. More importantly, communications in India needs to grow out of "get me the front page of ET" syndrome to engaging a brand's core audiences through a combination of earned, owned and paid. Content should always be thought through keeping in mind both audience and segment a brand is trying to reach. Applications like Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp helps brands reach hundreds of millions of people across geographies if the content is appropriate. Video content is important as it allows for virality if done right.   I believe the new mantra for PR is increasingly becoming "think visual, think mobile”.”

Using mobile based PR : Ola Cabs

While the need for mobile based PR seems like a no -brainer, some believe that Indian consumers are not yet fully ready for mobile PR strategies. Says Pawan Hora, co-founder & director, WishBox Studio, “ India is still very traditional when it comes to consumption of media. Although the last 5-7 years have seen a massive influx of smartphone culture into the system, thereby making content available on phones very easily, but I still believe it’s at a nascent stage. Various verticals of marketing including PR have tried to use this medium very effectively and have been moderately successful as well. But overlooking the extremely high data costs and the continuous bandwidth issues, we can still use tools like What's App, live RSS feeds, localisation of apps for clients, mobile coupons (QR code), mobile wallet, mobile messaging (for those who still believe in text based messaging) .”

But, Singh points out that great work is being done by Indian brands using mobbed channels for PR. HE points to Ola’s recent public service campaign titled "Peeke mat chala" as an excellent example of using mobile for social and video content to reach a large audience during New Year’s Eve 2016. Ola partnered with AIB to create this video campaign to convey that people should not drink and drive.  Ola also followed up on Twitter and tagged and tweeted to other brands, showing how a drunk person would have tweeted. Ola's generated awareness around the issue and reached over 1.5 million views on AIB and multiplied its reach through social channels like Twitter and YouTube:

Is the share of mobile PR rising?

Singh admits that, “In India, the mobile pie in terms of revenue currently is still embryonic but will increase rapidly in the next 2-3 years with the increase of 4G and higher bandwidth speeds. It is important to remember that of the 1.3 billion people in India the vast majority will access the internet for the first time on a mobile device instead of a laptop or a PC. We are experimenting with building apps for clients to enhance customer experience, stickiness, and engagement with a strong focus on UI/UX. “ 

Even as Indian customers increasingly consume content on smartphones, PR strategies would need to keep pace with these new demands. Even as Reliance Jio is poised to bring down data costs in 2017, this may need to happen sooner rather than later.

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