Beyond PR

Dec 27, 2012

3 Ways to Capture (& Keep) Audience Attention

Emerging naked from a roaring fire with a baby dragon on your shoulder is one way to get people’s attention. (Thankfully, there are some easier ways to capture your audience’s attention, which we discuss here today.)

Yesterday we published part one of this two-part post on capturing audience attention.  Today, author Ken Dowell offers thoughts on approaches that rely on utility and relevance, rather than diversion, to garner the attention of your organization’s constituents.

Creating great content that will capture attention and truly engage audiences is a new imperative for communicators.   But how exactly do you do that? One approach is to be so brilliant that you can produce staff that is so good an audience will congregate around it.  Since that option isn’t open to most of us we need to think of quality in terms of who it is we want to reach.  You can, for example, be writing on behalf of a accounting standards organization and you know you’re stuff isn’t exactly going to go viral.  But quality in this example means producing content that will be informative to the professional accountant audience who you’re trying to reach.

If you don’t have something that’s of interest, it isn’t going to much matter how you distribute it.  But the definition of what’s of interest is in the hands of the audience and your job in distributing information is in finding the appropriate audience, positioning your content to be discovered by the very people who would find it valuable.

The 3 S’s of content strategy

To do that you need to take into consideration the three S’s of modern content distribution:  search, social and syndication.

Search is still probably the ultimate consumer tool to filter out the noise and go directly to what you want.  In fact a whole industry has been built up around SEO.  And SEO practice became so prevalent that the search engines, led by Google, tweak their algorithms almost weekly to neutralize the practice of manipulating headlines and keywords and links, etc.  What would Google advise?  Create good content and post it on good sites.  Not a bad option.

Social replaces the diverted eyeball approach with the implied endorsement of being recommended by friends, followers or connections.  It’s a kind of discover mechanism that does for content what talking to your friends and acquaintances does for say restaurant recommendations.  My advice here is similar to what it is for search.  Worrying about “optimizing” through use of hashtags or optimum time of day or repetitions is not going to be nearly as important as producing content that your audience is going to want to share.

Syndication is perhaps less commonly thought of, but it’s a powerful content discovery tool that needs to be considered in determining how you are going to distribute your content.  Specific interest is trumping general interest for information consumers and syndicators that address that need are going to get you where you want to go.  (For example the PR Newswire widget that is deployed on hundreds of Web sites and blogs worldwide delivers to each site only the content that meets their description of what their readers want to see.)

New media, new devices, new tools have opened up new opportunities in marketing and public relations to be publishers and talk with audiences instead of at them   But there’s a crowd of others doing the talking and the listener is more and more fine tuning the message stream.   Only good content available in the right places will get through.

Author Ken Dowell is PR Newswire’s EVP of social media & audience development.

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