Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Keeping Attention in a Digital World

In our ever-changing digital world, grasping someone’s attention is the key to a successful campaign. Fail to do so, and your content will disappear from his or her feed in the blink of an eye.

Do me a favor and watch this video. Go ahead, I’ll wait until you’re finished.

YouTube video testing your attention span. Can you last?

Now, be honest. Did you actually watch the entire video? If the answer is no, what caused you to click away? Did something else come up and distract you, or were you just bored?

In a world that moves so quickly, shortened attention spans are a given.  Social media. Digital content. In 2021, these platforms have taken over our way of life.  When you’re on the go, you don’t want to stop and read an entire article. Some of us don’t even take the time to digest all of the posts in our Instagram feeds!

PR Daily calls out social media as the reason for declining attention spans online.  Gavin O’Malley states that “more content being produced in less time is exhausting the collective attention,” which hurts all communications professions that try to engage online (2019).  With posts constantly being uploaded across Instagram, Twitter, and more, how can you possibly expect a user to stop and focus on YOUR content?

So, how does a profession that relies so much on attention deal with a population that has the same attention span as a goldfish? This is what we public relations professionals have to figure out.  Online campaigns have the potential to be eye-catching, but you have to be smart in the way you apply your campaigns to truly resonate with your target publics. 

Jia Wertz’s piece for Forbes gives some solutions for marketers, but these same ideas can be applied to the public relations profession.  She focuses a lot on “micro-moments”, which are described as “when consumers want to learn something, do something, go somewhere, or buy something now” (2019).  If you can create a campaign that will highlight a micro-moment at the right time, you are bound to draw more eyes to your content.

Another concept Wertz explains is how important instant gratification is for consumers.  I mean, wouldn’t it be great to feel rewarded immediately upon seeing something? If your message can lead a consumer to immediately purchase a product or enroll in a service, you will see engagement rates skyrocket.  Wertz mentions that phones are the key to this spike, as 92% of people who searched for products on their phones made a related purchase (2019).  With target generations becoming dependent on phones, tailoring campaigns to mobile devices could easily reward you and your client.

To provide some context, let’s take a look at Klarna’s upcoming event, ‘Hauliday’.  This event is a 48-hour sales spree in partnership with Cosmopolitan.  To get eyes all over this event, the campaign has been structured strategically across both Cosmo and Klarna channels.  Our online articles/press link directly to products that are included in the sale, so consumers can immediately shop their favorite products.  Our entire app is going to have a Hauliday “takeover”, where all you see are the campaign’s flashy yellow colors and coordinated content, such as wish lists and deal cards.  By hitting users with instant gratification and reeling them in with eye-catching branded content, Klarna should expect to see some strong impressions and engagements with the event.

In a world where you want to pay less attention, PR professionals need to pay more attention to capitalize on consumer behaviors and get their messages across clearly.  Next time you’re scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, stop and think: what really does catch my eye in a fast-paced digital world?

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