Nov 14, 2013

Interest vs Attention. Which is Your Goal?

int attnA conversation I had with a peer yesterday got me thinking about press release outcomes, specifically, generating interest versus generating attention.

My colleague, a senior VP at an integrated communications agency, was telling me about a news release his PR team wrote, promoting a presentation he was giving at an industry event.  Instead of leading with his name, or some discussion around the topic, the lead sentence they employed was a jargon-heavy corporate positioning statement.

He pushed back, asking why the release was emphasizing a specific keyword phrase, rather than the topic of the presentation, which was strongly related to the agency’s business.  The answer – they were trying to seed awareness of that particular keyword phrase, in conjunction with the brand.

Generating attention means nothing if audience doesn’t take a next step lil tweet

Again he pushed back, arguing variously that the phrase was an obscure one nobody used (and thus, not useful from an SEO standpoint), the lead paragraph was fantastically boring and no one would read enough of the release to get to the core message, that they were missing the opportunity to connect with the people who were interested in the the timely topic his presentation was addressing and finally, by not highlighting involvement with the conference, the message was failing to leverage the significant attention the event was generating.  He didn’t win, and the team lost the opportunity to position the brand as a thought leader around a key industry topic, and to garner additional credibility on the subject through their involvement at a big industry confab.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the headline and lead paragraph didn’t reference the interesting topic, the content wasn’t indexed under that valuable key phrase in search engines. 

As a result the agency was absent from search results pertaining to that hot topic.

Which meant that people overlooking information on that topic didn’t consider that agency.

And that means they lost business.

Oh, and because the lead was boring, people wouldn’t continue to read past the first few words of the awful lead. 

Which means they wouldn’t share the content on social networks, thus hiding the message from view of all the people sharing content from the event.

Fewer people went to his session.  The agency saw its ROI diminish from its investment in the conference.

The focus of that press release should have been promoting the brand’s leadership on a key issue, using the presentation and the conference as the hook, not upon building association with an obscure term no one uses  for the brand name.

Words mean things, and nowhere is that more true than in the communications we craft for the brands and organizations we represent.   And more than meaning, words inform search engines and spark social conversation – the kind that can amplify messages and win new relevant and valuable attention for the company – the sort of attention that turns into active interest on the part of the audience.

Simply put, attention isn’t worth much if the audience isn’t inspired to take a next step.  “Seeding awareness” of a phrase in conjunction with a brand name is the kind of objective that is impossible to measure, and is frankly of dubious value.    As we craft press releases and other messages, we need to be deliberately building interest, and focusing on leveraging the attention we create into real benefit for our brands.

Turning attention into interest starts with driving the discovery of your brand’s content.  Join us Tuesday, November 19, for a webinar on the topic of content discovery.   You’ll learn how to craft messages that will resonate with new, relevant audiences and will generate better results for your campaigns.

Free webinar registration: Connecting Messages with Audiences: Tips & Tactics for Driving Content Discovery 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School PR Tactics  and Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

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