The Attention Game

Posted on October 7, 2017

Over the last decade, the world has become a lot noisier. The beeping and ringing of cell phones can be heard in virtually any and every public space, and to the dismay of many parents, it is not so uncommon at the dinner table either. As a society, we have familiarized ourselves with the sounds of email notifications, text messages, and alerts from our Facebook pages. But this physical noise isn't the type I'm referring to; I'm referring to digital chatter. 

Not so long ago, the only people who really had a strong platform for their voice were those who had access to editorial outlets such as newspapers, television stations, or radio broadcasts. If you wanted to make a public statement or had something interesting to say, you had to get in contact with your local broadcasting station or newspaper, or have a connection with someone who worked at one of these media outlets. After presenting your idea or message, someone would then decide whether or not to give you a platform to present it to the public. While this system is still relevant today due to the third-party credibility and extensive reach of editorial outlets, a new platform for news and information has arisen, and this new system is setting the world on fire. If you haven't guessed yet, I'm referring to social media. 

The rise of social media has essentially given anybody with a phone or a computer a platform for their voice. Today, practically anybody can make a statement, spread news, or start a movement without getting involved with traditional media outlets such as newspapers or television. This has changed the world of marketing and public relations like we've never seen before. The benefits and liabilities of social media in a public relations context can be discussed in an entire book, but for the sake of this article, we will focus on the phenomenon of “digital noise.” So, what does this mean for brands trying to push their message out to their target audiences?

Let’s consider this. Imagine that you sit down at a dinner table with two friends. With a small group, it’s very easy to join the conversation and get your message across. Now imaging that two more people join, then ten more, then ten thousand, then ten million. All of a sudden, it becomes much more difficult to get your message across to the people you want to hear it. This is a good analogy to help people understand what’s happening across the internet and in the world of communications as a whole. Since the world has become so noisy with chatter, this means that brands have to speak up if they wish to get their message across and have it resonate with the people who need to hear it. This is the attention game.

In order for a brand to be successful, whether it is a highly relevant, mainstream organization or personality, or a not so well-known, regional financial services company, it needs to capture attention. Period. You could have the single best product or service in the world, but if nobody knows who you are, it's not going to matter. Today, the reality is that it’s much harder for people to get to know you when there are so many others trying to make an introduction. This means that brands need to take a more aggressive and innovative approach to their communications efforts. Capturing attention across digital outlets is not rocket science, but it does take quite a bit of effort, skill, and creativity. Even the most seemingly irrelevant brands can create buzz and hype across social networks if they know how to disrupt the space correctly. Although it's not necessarily easy, the rise of social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram has created an opportunity for brands to communicate and resonate with their target audiences like never before. In order to get people talking, brands need to be willing to get a bit disruptive. The world is not going to get any quieter, so everyone with a message must make the decision: do you want to get lost in the chatter, or lead the conversation? The choice is yours.