Today, the average adult attention span is between 3 and 8 seconds. On top of that, our audiences are increasingly overwhelmed by conflicting priorities and content coming at them from every angle. As a result, they now demand our thoughts in 140 characters or less. Posts, not paragraphs, are the preferred length, and the content most likely to be shared is photos, infographics and video. This past week, we even noticed this evolution in our annual communication industry awards. In addition to providing the usual descriptions of our work—our planning process, how we executed against the plan and the results—the Holmes Report 2012 Sabre Guidelines also now require participants to:
- Include illustrations in the summary. Space is limited, but if there’s an element of your campaign that’s particularly impressive and can only be conveyed visually, then a small picture can make a big difference. It can also break up lines of boring text.
- Keep the summary to two pages. Judges just don’t have the patience to wade through a two-page summary that runs to three or four pages. One of the skills of a good communicator is to tell a compelling story in limited space.
- Tell a story. A lot of summaries are very boring, often just a long list of all the things the team did. Imagine you’re telling your best friend, or your mother, or even a new client what made this campaign so exciting.
I’ve hung the Sabre entry criteria next to my computer as a reminder of the value we must bring as communicators every day—to deliver content in the way audiences will consume it—so that they will engage, and continue engaging, with our brand. So what does this mean for content creation? Always follow these three simple rules: 1. Be Visual: It’s still true—a picture is worth a thousand words. Logos are one of the primary tools a brand has to tell their story. Consider this one for Mining Truth. The coalition, one of Beehive’s clients, was established to raise awareness of the dangers of sulfide mining in Northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. The logo depicts the natural resources the coalition is fighting to protect—a peaceful loon swimming in brilliant blue waters. That image is then fractured amidst a destabilized ecosystem. No words necessary. No further information required. 2. Be Brief: The media has always communicated in soundbites, but now consumers do too. The continued rise of smart phone and tablet use just adds to the need for brevity. It’s often hardest to be brief when presenting research. But consider this approach, taken by our partner and client Ginger Consulting. Their annual “What Women Want” survey was presented not in a text-heavy PPT or research brief. Instead, they used a series of memorable, shareable infographics to tell the story, resulting in a significant increase in media pickup. 3. Tell a Story. What do we remember from the networking party we attended last month? Why do we get together with friends or coworkers for coffee? Sharing and telling stories. It’s core to human nature, but in the business world, we often forget that a story is the most memorable and persuasive way to communicate. TED Talks have become popular for this very reason. The presenters share a critical topic through story telling. They bring the concept to life with inflection, drama and anecdotes—and the result is more than one billion views. So the next time you are trying to engage your audience, whether it’s an award entry, a business presentation or a tweet, consider repeating—and living—the mantra: Be Visual, Be Brief, Tell a Story. By maximizing your 3 seconds, you’ll capture your audience and deliver your message.