I’ve always been a major consumer of content. Like most PR pros, I’m a media junkie, that is, passionate about news. I used to start my days poring over five papers, listening to radio and watching TV. In recent years, that’s been turned into more of a social media addiction. (I’m trying to control it, really…)

I read, click, share, work, read, work, share, create — though creation takes me a lot more time because it’s “deep work.” More on that below. 

So as 2015 winds to a close, I thought I’d look back over the past year at the ideas that stuck with me and made me rethink my approach to work:

Mobile is the difference between city and suburbs

Have you looked at your website on a mobile device? I mean from the perspective of your customer. Google made us do that earlier in the year. Is your site inviting, easy to read and intuitive? Or is it just a second-rate mini-me of your desktop experience? Mobile isn’t an add-on anymore; it’s the starting point for the majority of interactions you have with your customers. And the desire paths on mobile devices – the short cuts we take to get from one place to another – are different from the way we behave online. Too many brands are trying to foist a suburban ethos on the urban (i.e. more compact) environment that is mobile. Sure there are similarities, but instead we should pay attention to the subtle differences in mobile and design for that.

Just a second

Actually, we don’t even have that much time. We have moments – a fleeting instant — for our attention to be snagged. And those moments often happen when we’re in the middle of something else. We’re all becoming slaves to what Google calls micro-moments, those I want to know/go/do/buy times we incessantly turn to our smartphones throughout the day or night. Agencies and brands need to figure out how to create the kind of content that shows up, engages and entertains in that flash.

New media is all about distribution

The legacy news business is a content play. The ads paid the bills, but editorial had the cachet and kept audiences coming back. But, new media don’t care so much about creating stories, they’re more about curating them, providing a platform to reach people and selling ads. Look at Apple News, Facebook’s Instant Articles, Twitter’s Moments, Snapchat’s Discover. They’re platforms for aggregated content and ads. Where will that leave the creators? Will content be even more commoditized than before? Or is this an opportunity for the fresh new ideas to rise to the top?

When clients say PR, they still mean publicity

The PR industry has been telling itself we do a lot more than media relations. The trouble is, we don’t communicate that very well. And now, in a world of diminishing mainstream media, the way the industry is perceived may be holding us back. And we can either accept our fate as digital publicists or reposition PR in a more content-focused, newsmaking and social way. But, old habits die hard and it’s tough to say no when you get a new client call asking for the thing you’ve always done.

Put deep work first

A recent post I read highlights research by author and professor Cal Newport, who believes we spend too many hours on “shallow work” like going to meetings and answering emails rather than focusing on “deep work” that takes longer, requires thought, imagination and focus and differentiates you in the marketplace. The article highlights five ways we can shift our thinking beginning with the way we schedule our days and the importance of saying no to non-priorities. It’s something I’ve already started to try. Ask me how successful I am at in the next few months.

What have you learned this past year that made you stop and think and maybe set out on another path?

A version of this post was originally published in Marketing Magazine.

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman conducts social media and online crisis training workshops, is a digital and communications strategist and speaks at events across North America. He's the co-founder of three PR agencies, president of a consultancy and has worked in the industry for over 25+ years. Martin is a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com author, teaches digital strategy and social media at University of Toronto SCS and Seneca College, and is a past-chair of PRSA Counselors Academy.

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