communications strategy

Grab your share of ever-shrinking attention spans

Carolyn McMaster | May 21, 2014

“Nobody reads anymore.” We hear that all the time (despite the boom in content marketing), and we could spend all day disproving the notion. But it is true that in our multitasking, Twitter-driven, information-overload world, it’s harder to attract and hold a business audience than it once was. Harder, but not impossible: here are a few tips to grab attention in an attention-deficit age:

Break the mold. Examine how similar organizations communicate, and do something different. Find an unusual angle. Be warmer or more analytical, more casual or more sophisticated—whatever everyone else is not. And ditch the jargon—buzzwords are a way to fit in, not to stand out.

Strike an emotional chord. Focus on what moves, excites, inspires, or alarms. What will get the strongest gut response? Not sure? Think about how you’d talk about it with an attractive stranger at a party.

Just say it. Bland, heavily qualified statements may head off controversy, but they also induce narcolepsy. Say what you mean, clearly and assertively, and support it. People will take notice. And if they take exception? That’s an opportunity for dialogue.

Be relevant. If your content isn’t targeted to your audience, you’ll lose them. Provide information readers want and you’ll keep them with you.

Use snappy display copy. If the most eye-catching copy on the page is dull, why would anyone read the small print? Strong display copy (headlines, subheads and the like) grabs readers; treating it as an afterthought is a mistake.

Underlying these strategies is a key principle: be compelling. And “compelling” means compelling to your audience, not necessarily to you or your organization. Cater to your readers and you’ll get their attention.

Want more ideas for compelling communications? Check out our 9 Ways to Make a Powerful Impression report.


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