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Attention spans are shortening. Are your communications adapting?

Written by

Matt Hiraishi

When communicating to business audiences—whether your target audience is the C-suite, the Board level, investors, or other stakeholders—you are competing for a share of mind and only have a short window of opportunity to break through the clutter. And, while a segment of the business and academic worlds debate the validity of empirical evidence, most of us know the following to be fact. Attention spans are shortening—fast.

In many situations, if someone doesn’t see a payoff quickly, he moves on. Facts and figures don’t matter if a person has tuned out.

So what does this mean for your corporate communications strategy?

While most professionals understand this new reality, many still fall short of meeting these evolving expectations.

Here are three common reasons for going too long:

  • Lack of planning: All too often, communicators will put pen to paper without a clear objective, hindering the ability to be concise and impactful.

  • An urge to put everything out there: Being a subject matter expert can be both a blessing and a curse. For many, the desire to information dump often wins the day, over fear that less information will bring more questions than answers.

  • Failure to read an audience: Those unable to take ‘yes’ for an answer. We’ve all experienced those presenters who successfully convey their point but keep talking, often to the detriment of their overall message.

With these points in mind, here are some simple tips you can apply to your next communications project to help you develop a punchy, memorable message:

  • Think before you speak: Put a plan on paper. Define the main point and purpose of your communication. While an extra step in the process, it can save you significant time and help tighten the message in your final product.

  • Get right to the point: Effective corporate communications aren’t a sitcom—there’s no need to wait until the end for the punchline. Lead with your best material. Hooking your audience early will grant you more time to flesh out the details.

  • Keep it fresh: Take a full inventory of your spoken and written words. Avoid recycling the same information in subsequent communication pieces. Keep your audience intrigued with new insights and commentary instead of restating boilerplate content.

Tightening up communications will require additional effort and work, but your efforts will be rewarded with an engaged and better-informed audience.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Mark Twain

——— Written by Matt Hiraishi, former Manager, NATIONAL Public Relations