Getting ahead in the age of distraction

Cutting through the noise is a start, but what then? What must brands do to hold their audiences’ attention in this time of constant distraction?

Cutting through the noise is a start, but what then? What must brands do to hold their audiences’ attention in this time of constant distraction?

We’ve all seen the jacket.  But what did we see?

Was it just a jacket?  Seems hard to believe.

Was it sending a message? Probably, but to whom and about what?

A purposeful effort to draw out the media to focus on clothes instead of the crisis unfolding at the border? Perhaps.

But there’s a broader lesson for communicators that we’d be well to heed.

We live in the age of distraction

In the midst of a shocking humanitarian crisis that strikes at the heart of America’s values, our attention was diverted.  For communicators, the lesson isn’t about why it was diverted, but the fact that it happened so easily.

We’ve become used to the idea that we have shorter attention spans than ever. We read content on the go, mobile first.  We consume news through tweets and move on with the flick of finger, alerts and emails causing distraction at any moment.

The news cycle is moving just as frenetically. A massive story might linger in the mind for a day or two.  More modest news only gets a moment.  If Andy Warhol lived today, he might have said everyone will be famous for 280 characters.

Hold our thought

But building a brand requires getting, and holding, people’s attention.  I thought about this as I prepared recently to moderate The Future of Digital Content panel at Whipsmart 2.0, Newswhip’s second annual media conference.

Our panel focused on the ways that content creators are cutting through the noise to connect with audiences.

As you’d expect, we talked a lot about technology, including using Bots and AI to create more personalized experiences.  We talked about how important it is, in today’s lightning-fast news cycle, to create content for tomorrow’s story, not linger on today.

Beyond that, we talked about how the content that holds attention is still about the same things as always. It may involve brands, but it’s not about brands. It’s honest and authentic content.

It’s about people and their stories.

Most of all, it conveys a simple, emotionally driven message.  When we can live up to that, we can earn the attention of audiences through the distractions of today.

As Steve Jobs famously said more than 20 years ago, “It’s a noisy world. We’re not going to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know.

That’s never been more true than it is today.

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