MOJO: 3 Things Public Relations Can Learn From Mobile Journalists

Photo by  Rafael Leão .

Photo by Rafael Leão.

In public relations, we too frequently want learning and skill building to be an insular process. We either want to learn from the experience of others within the public relations field or we want them to learn from us. When we look to other industries, though, we only want them to learn from us. We want businesses to let us teach them how to communicate their vision to the world or we want journalists to learn how to tell that company’s story well, but as the varying communications fields continue to overlap and converge, there is more and more that public relations professionals need to learn from parallel fields to continue to thrive. One of those relatively new and rapidly growing fields is mobile journalism, frequently characterized with the shorthand #MOJO.

Mobile journalists practice a lean and mean style of multimedia based journalism where most if not all of their content is recorded, edited and often published directly from their iPhone or other smart device. That may not sound too unique for a print/online reporter who only needs to write copy, but #MOJO goes beyond that to producing multitrack radio reports, complete with natural sound and multiple soundbites, out in the field and emailing them into a station. They’re recording and producing entire broadcast video news reports in the field with minimum setup and logistics to slow them down. And in some cases, they’re producing live remote broadcasts on their own with nothing but a smartphone and possibly a microphone and a few other accessories.

In short, #MOJO as an emerging field empowers mobile journalists to do a lot with very little. This isn’t just a field for journalism students right out of college either. Everyone from the BBC and major newspapers across the world to local TV stations trying to compete on-air and online are growing their mobile journalism programs and training. So here are three lessons that public relations professionals can learn from this new crop of mobile journalists and incorporate into their daily workflows.

PERFECTION IS THE ENEMY OF A GOOD STORY

Public relations professionals strive for perfection in every story and every piece of content. They want to put in the time so that the message not only communicates an organization’s story well, but the quality of the production reflects positively on the brand as well. Often everyone from public relations specialist to the CEO has an opportunity to give input and request changes of varying impact. All of that takes time… lots of time, and that many cycles of review, input and revision can often dull the impact the story originally intended.

By the time many public relations teams can produce one piece of solid content like this, a mobile journalist has often produced a dozen or more reports, gotten them through editorial review and published into the world. The time restrictions and limitations of their #MOJO practice also help them focus on what’s really necessary for the story and quickly move past superficial details their audience likely doesn’t care about anyway. Is the audio from that interview a little echoey? If it’s understandable, they’ll use it anyway. Could that video angle have been a little more cinematic? They’ll try something interesting next time. iPhones and other smartphones are not perfect tools and that imperfection can have the liberating effect of allowing storytellers, whether in journalism or public relations, to focus more on the story itself. That’s what both their audiences want to engage with in the end anyway.

MOBILE JOURNALISTS KNOW THAT SPEED MATTERS WHEN IT COMES TO CONTENT

As we just described, public relations tends to move slowly when it comes to content and storytelling. For instance, when was the last time you received professional photographs from your corporate event to post to social or a company blog before the event ended? Did you receive the photographs within the next week? Month? Quality certainly matters, but so does speed when you’re trying to remain relevant, hold the attention of your audience and make an impact that leaves a lasting impression. This is something mobile journalists do better than most.

While a team of public relations professionals schedule and hold their first brainstorming session for a storytelling or multimedia project, the mobile journalists has already conducted their interviews, shot B-roll, scripted the story, edited the piece and hit publish. Holding a press conference? Try distributing key video clips or your own story based on the event within an hour of it ending. Hosting a fundraising event? Try having photographs and a multimedia piece produced and available for your supporters to share that evening when they’re focused on your company, not next week when they’ve already moved onto something else. We’re not just talking about speed, but capitalizing on momentum as well.

THE RIGHT TOOLS NEVER OUTWEIGH A GOOD STORY

We mentioned that iPhones and other smartphones are not perfect multimedia production tools. They’re really not. The small sensors offer laughable dynamic range, the audio for most applications is amateurish without the addition of a professional microphone and trying to properly edit on a four or five inch screen can prove frustrating for anyone over 20 years of age. They will never compete with a full video production rig or recording studio as far as quality. The thing is, as a public relations practitioner, you’re not trying to show off that you produced a story using more than $30k in gear. You’re trying to show off the story itself.

A good story shines through so long as basic production standards can be met and that’s what your audience wants – a good story. Mobile journalists know this and that allows them to tell story after story with great success without worrying about all the things public relations teams tend to worry about. They’re certainly aware of those concerns, but in the end they know that it’s the story that counts and they work to deliver a good story as fast as they can with the tools they have on them. As #MOJO grows and content marketing takes on an even greater role in the work of most communications team portfolios, there is certainly a lot that public relations can learn from today’s mobile journalists.