When you fly, do you actually pay attention to the airline safety announcement?
Neither do I.
These FAA-mandated announcements are, for the most part, monotonous, mundane, and insulting to the intelligence of anyone with a fifth grade education. Instructing passengers on how to fasten their seat belt by inserting the end with the clip into the metal buckle? PLEEZE!
However, this past week I experienced one that made me drop my USA Today Sports section, as it captured my undivided attention for nearly five minutes.
3 communications principles to apply
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Unquestionably, our attention spans are rapidly decreasing and the competition for capturing attention and holding it captive for any duration of time is increased exponentially. So if communicating important messages, rules, policies, procedures, etc. to others is a part of how you earn your daily bread, it’s essential to apply these three (3) key principles:
- Shock and awe. Adrift in a sea of distracted multitasking Zombies, you have to be radically different to get noticed. So take bold steps to be hysterically funny, be shockingly controversial, or be heavily dramatic in your efforts to break preoccupation right out of the starting gate. Winning a few nanoseconds of attention is half the battle.
- Don’t dilly-dally. My son is an experienced copywriter for a trendy advertising agency in San Francisco. His job is to tell a compelling story that includes an attention-getting beginning, an engaging middle, and a persuasive conclusion, all within a 15-second time frame (the length of most of the commercials you now see on TV.) Zac has become an expert at cutting words from sentences to remove any that aren’t absolutely necessary. It’s not what he writes that counts, its how much he can say in short, compact sentences that matters. Translation? Make your point STAT.
- Throw a change up. At any given time, GEICO has at least three completely different ad campaigns running simultaneously. You may love the dueling banjo spots, like the cavemen, and hate the gecko, but the continual variety GEICO employs increases the chances that you will remember that “a 15-minute call could save you 15 percent or more on your insurance.” Whatever technique you choose to deliver your important messages, don’t allow them to become predictable.
The task of communicating important messages to a mass audience — like your workforce — now requires far more than a memo, an email, a talking head, and even a professionally produced video. Breaking through the clutter and captivating the attention of those you’re attempting to train, inform, and/or even protect now calls for out-of-the-box thinking and guerrilla tactics.
Now, if the attention you’re trying to win is owned by someone who is 25 or under, you better pull out the heavy artillery and prepare for an epic battle, because these three principles are just a jumping off point.
This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.