With so much talk about the attention economy – our favourite description of the challenge people face in giving anything any proper time or attention – we were inspired by this latest blog from Harvard Business Review about digital technology and its paradox (Read more here).
Fundamentally, it’s asking whether digital technology simply adds to the pressure pot or can it become a strategic tool for potential? For us, we decided to look at how this relates to the communications industry in which we operate and the impact on our clients?
In our view, the core strategic paradox that the HBR blog references to in relation to the digital technology is also true for content development and communications – it represents both a source of mounting performance pressure and an opportunity for value.
A few questions quickly spring to mind for the organisations we work with – or would like to; for example: Do you have the time to focus on developing compelling content and defining a communications strategy? Is this more difficult today than previously? Does it come back to the issue of value and measurement of that value?
We strongly identify with the pressures outlined in the blog regarding the challenges we all face with the advent of digital technology – the intensification of competition, the accelerating pace of change combined with connectivity which requires us to react faster than ever before. Indeed, there is an ‘array of people and thing competing for our attention’.
However, one could argue that these pressures have always been in place, certainly over the last couple of decades since the explosion of technology and the Internet. In many ways, we see this more as a transformation and intensification of pressure. Is it more that the channels of communication have fragmented – moving from newspapers and magazines, through to bloggers and Skype, through to social media – the response time may be faster, often real-time, the connection may be direct now and potentially constant, lacking what used to be ‘out-of-hours’ business time. But the fundamental premise of communications is still there.
Depending on who you want to reach, when, isn’t it still all about engaging in the right way, with the right ‘content’ (story) at the right time? It may be that it’s now instantaneous and location-independent – which adds its own pressures and complications around expectation on level of response – but in many ways, certainly in the communications industry, this doesn’t represent a major change. For us, it’s still about appropriate and relevant engagement driven by compelling content – and frankly, preparing as much as possible for handling different outcomes.
We believe that it’s the opportunity that has amplified – the diversification of channels, the opportunity to engage directly has increased. Certain aspects have become more visible too and hence increased the level of risk – such as engagement on social media.
For us, it’s still about asking the below questions:
- The business/organisation objectives: What are you trying to achieve (be it increased market share, profits, awareness etc) to which audiences?
- The story: Do you know your company story? Can you tell it in a compelling way to make you stand out from the crowd? And do you know how it stacks up against the content of the industry and the competition? Finally, how do you make it interesting to the target audience?
- The engagement/communications approach: Do you know who you want to reach? Do you know who influences them? Do you know what interests them and what they are worried about? Do you track who they engage with on Twitter, or which social media channels they take part in? Do you know what events they attend and industry bodies they are members of – essentially, what is their influencer network?
An effective communications campaign should help you stand out from the crowd, gain attention in a constantly competitive space with creative, relevant and compelling stories, within the context of the industry landscape.
So in summary – yes – it’s tough to grab attention, the market is fragmented, attention spans have – in theory – never been shorter. But it’s still down to targeted, personalised communications supported by a strong network of contacts. The digital deluge has only made this more important, with digital technology providing new tools and opportunities to connect.
And let’s be honest. It’s always been easy to get distracted, perhaps never more so that in today’s information rich society full of the growing distractions of digital life, but in our view, there have always been distractions to be found.
Director of Firework PR
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