How To Earn Trust in the Attention Economy

May 4, 2022
By PRSA-SV Intern Raina Stroescu
How To Earn Trust in the Attention Economy

In the world of communications, it is important to grab your audience’s attention to gain their understanding of your message. The ongoing pandemic has caused changes in the marketplace and given rise to the “attention economy.” On April 22, #FridayForum welcomed Manhattan Strategies, an independent consulting firm, to speak on how brands can drive return on investment for social media through authenticity and visual storytelling.

Manhattan Strategies Principal Maxwell Morgan explained how we are living in the age of the “attention economy,” where attention is a valuable form of currency. Our attention is limited, and while money follows attention, the reverse is not necessarily true.

Human attentiveness is a declining “eight-second attention span,” said Manhattan Strategies Associate for Executive Storytelling Megan Shaffer. However, the average human attention span remembers 80% of what we see. As attention becomes an increasingly valuable form of currency, it raises the question: “how do we earn trust in this environment and navigate client goals and values?”

Shaffer introduced the idea of visuals-first storytelling. Visuals-first storytelling is a method of communication that relies on compelling visual strategies to connect to the audience. When implementing this strategy, it is important to consider the following:

  1. Remember to have genuine intent – people know when companies are not “in-tune” with their audience or if the company’s sole purpose is just to go viral.
  2. Show human warmth and emotion – people like personability and they want reassurance they are not interacting with a computer screen.
  3. Being visual is subjective – ask yourself the question of what people are and are not expecting. It is important to understand and keep in mind that everyone responds differently to certain visuals.

Authenticity with your audience is crucial to the success of a company, especially on social media. It is important for brands to “talk-the-talk” but even more so “walk-the-walk,” explained Manhattan Strategies Sr. Communications Manager Elona Neal. When a message or campaign on social media does not align with a brand’s actions, their authenticity can be called into question. Neal explained the three ways to ensure you’re leading with authenticity:

  1. Transparency is real – it is important to be authentic to build a good reputation with your audience.
  2. Actions speak louder than words – your audience will see personal connection and any potential lack in personal intent.
  3. Define your perspective – what makes your values stand out from other companies? Why should people care about your brand?

One primary example of this is the support of companies and brands during social justice movements. During the summer of 2020, the BLM movement gained massive amounts of support and attention. A lot of companies got caught up in the moment and the desire to get involved in the BLM movement; however, their actions were not aligned. It is extremely important to be mindful of timeliness, intent and to be sure what you are saying is upheld by actions.

Manhattan Strategies Director of Social Media Leah Connolly explained how communications professionals can create a social strategy with an emphasis in ROI. Companies must pay attention to qualitative success, emphasize the importance of milestones and benchmarking, become flexible and help a client or team to understand what they’re looking at when presenting analytical data.

Ultimately, to gain the attention from audiences on social media, it is important to turn towards visual storytelling. Trust and engagement from an audience are achieved through authenticity, transparency, intentionality, and effective demonstration. Every day, social media becomes increasingly more saturated. Those who can distinguish themselves from the noise, leverage a strong visual strategy, and lead authentically will see a return on investment in today’s attention economy. Watch the Manhattan Strategies April 22nd #FridayForum by visiting PRSA Silicon Valley Facebook or listening to the podcast on Apple, Buzzsprout and Spotify.

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