Attention

Written on:October 28, 2011
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Violette Smiling

I think that when marketers and PR practitioners talk so often about “engagement” and trying to understand its mechanics, I feel that what most people seek is “attention” and then “intention” and not exactly engagement. As the parent of two young children, I can tell you that “attention” is a valuable coin. Instead of “pay attention,” I wish the phrase were “invest attention,” because I feel that the more attention I give to my children, the more they see that I’m seeking to understand them and see them fully, the more they open up to being who they intend to be with me.

I shot a quick video about this, as well:


If you can’t see the video, click here.

When I put my little boy on the bus this morning, the other two kids wanted desperately to show me their Halloween costumes. One was a vampire girl from Monster High and the other was a biker, complete with a goatee. When I made extra special care to compliment the boy with the goatee while stroking my own to show that we were two of a kind, he lit up with a big proud smile. When I shared with the girl a few lines that her character from Monster High would have said (my daughter’s watched the show a few times), she lit up inside knowing that I knew exactly who she was.

The same experience is exactly true for adults. We all stumble around hoping to be understood. We all feel like we don’t belong somewhere. We all slip into that awkward feeling. It might come when we read something we don’t fully understand. It might come when we are pushed into a work environment that doesn’t suit our personalities. But we find ourselves there as adults, and those very rare moments when someone breaks the barrier and shows us that they see us, that they are giving us attention, that’s the magical moment.

Attention into Intention

To me, once you’ve invested enough attention, then it’s much easier to seek an intention. If you want someone to read your stupid PR pitch, they will be much more likely to do so if they feel like you know who they are, and like you know each other’s work, and maybe even a little bit more about each other. This is clearly not fast work. This is clearly not easily measurable work. And yet, it’s how these things go best.

When I walked into Jason Kintzler’s booth for PitchEngine at a recent PRSA national event, I was checking in with someone I’d known for a few years, and whose progress I’d followed. Jason didn’t have to push me for engagement. We had had each other’s attention, so he earned the ability to execute on his intention: in this case, to show me his product’s updates.

What Does This Mean, Practically?

Here’s the rub. No one in the management cares about this. The CEO and CFO give you a marketing budget and they say, “for that amount of money, I expect this many sales.” They don’t say, “I’d love it if you get to know the people before you try to sell them.” And this method I’m talking about isn’t especially efficient, if you’re still seeking only transactional experiences. But this is really just a part of the method, a part of the Way. How does it fit? Depending on your position and responsibilities, it’s something like this:

Advertising
SEO
Attention/Intention
Traditional PR
Customer Service

Okay, so in my world, Marketing owns customer service. It’s not a reality yet, but it’s something I’m striving to make real. But, depending on how one puts their budgets together, to me, Attention/Intention is somewhere around where you’d put your social media efforts, your blogger relations efforts, and matters like that. To me, the beauty of working on attention is that you can work on finding people who might love what you sell, and who might have communities of their own, and you can embrace them and work towards their intentions. In a way, this is a mix of what people are already stabbing at with social media plus blogger relations (which continues to be horribly broken).

One Last Thing: The Enemy

The enemy of Attention is Impatience. This isn’t something you try to rush, try to game, or try to expedite by some electronic means, at least not all of it. One part of attention is providing interesting content for conversations and consideration. That can be somewhat automated, obviously. But responses, interactions, and the like, are meant to be non-scalable environments. You can talk as much as you can talk, and that’s about it. If you can’t get to everyone, you can’t get to everyone. But you cannot (in my not nearly humble opinion) revert to a bunch of electronic means to try and skip some steps in this regard.

What do you think? Are we seeing this the same way?


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