A number of years ago I found myself making a major career change, going from working at a newspaper as a writer to entering the world of public relations. One would think since both involve communications that it wouldn’t be such a huge leap. One would be wrong – at least in my case.
Oh, there was still plenty of writing involved – but it was a totally different kind of writing. In my previous life as a newspaper scribe, well-written stories started off with an attention grabbing lead, followed by all of the main points you were trying to get across, great quotes and details. Plenty of details.
Once I moved into a PR position, I realized that the details were, of course, still important. And grabbing your reader’s attention was still crucial as well. It was just that you didn’t have as much time to tell your story. There was also the fact that as time had gone marching on, the attention span of readers’ had become less and less.
This, for me, was a hard pill to swallow. I loved words, adored adjectives and enjoyed nothing better than setting a scene for the readers. That takes time though. And in this day of the extremely short attention span – they say that our attention span is now less than that of a gold fish, somewhere around eight seconds – that’s simply not going to work. That eight seconds, by the way, is down from the 12 seconds it was advertised to be at the beginning of this century. For the record, I blame all this on things like smartphones and Twitter.
So, folks you’ve got approximately eight seconds before you lose someone to a television show, another article, a conversation, or golf outing. And when it comes to an email, I’ll argue that you have even less time to get your point across. In fact, I had a boss tell me one time that anything after the first two sentences of an email was all for naught because 1) he had lots more emails to get too and 2) gnat’s had a longer attention span than he did. If you wanted him to know what was going on, you better say it in the first two sentences… and he wasn’t wrong or alone because that’s pretty much the way of the world now.
In today’s fast-paced, ever changing environment, communicating effectively via the written word, and doing so in a timely fashion, is vital to the success of any organization, media and marketing plan, sporting event, family dinner, etc. So just remember, if you want people to read and comprehend whatever it is you’re writing, don’t think in terms of a novel. Instead, you gotta be concise and should you choose to go the social media route make sure you take the High Road!