Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Business of Keeping Attention

The ability of a business to grab and keep the attention of its audiences can determine its survival in the 21st century. But business leaders learn quickly that attention getting isn’t just a form of microeconomics among their current and potential customers. To succeed, they are recognizing that they need to compete not only with competitors in their industry. They need to compete with all the noise and demands modern life presents.

Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck define attention as the “focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act,” in their book, The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business. The fast-paced American lifestyle dramatically reduces an audience member’s ability to focus on a particular piece of information for an extended period of time, if at all. The result is a hyper-competitive market to gain and maintain attention.

To better understand how the “attention economy” changes over time, communicators can follow the Well Being Index, a polling service maintained by Gallup to observe trends in people’s attitudes towards work, life and health. For instance, Gallup demonstrated that lack of time and stress go hand in hand. As evidenced by the data, 54% of Americans who do not have enough spare time these days said they frequently experience stress. This is twice the percentage of those who have sufficient time to attend to their matters.

Stress and lack of free time make it critical for communicators to understand their audiences and deliver information in such a way that will allow consumers to act. The basic steps to attempt this feat include:
Knowing your audience
Presenting only pertinent information
Providing your audience with the tools they need to act

Consumers have different needs and wants. When it comes to spending attention capital, consumers want to know those vying for their attention have made some investment in getting to know what they need.

- Potomac Communications Group

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