How to Communicate through Distraction

distractedHow many times did you get distracted already today?

It’s no secret that we need to communicate quickly, briefly and on point to grab the attention of folks in a near constant stage of distraction. That’s been one of the most significant fundraising challenges since the advent of the Internet, compounded over time by our reliance on more content on more platforms on more devices more of the time. But the first step to connecting in our age of distraction is understanding what’s going on.

Consider your habits. How much attention do you give your 8-year-old daughter’s first-time request to host a sleepover, your BFF’s distress over her mom’s increasing dementia, or your colleague’s wrangles with her boss? For most of us, the answer is “not as much as I would like to.”

Keeping your pattern in mind, how much attention do you think your people give an email (obviously not personal, despite the “personalization”), direct mail or phone call from your organization? Again, not much. That’s why, as a connection specialist, I’m so charged up by Addicted to Distraction, a personal account by productivity and performance expert Tony Schwartz, founder and CEO of The Energy Project.

I was spending too many hours online, checking the traffic numbers for my company’s website, shopping for more colorful socks on Gilt, and even guiltily clicking through pictures with irresistible headlines such as ‘Awkward Child Stars Who Grew Up to Be Attractive.’

 “During the workday, I checked my email more times than I cared to acknowledge, and spent far too much time hungrily searching for tidbits of new information about the presidential campaign, with the election then still more than a year away,” says Schwartz.

Sound like anyone you know? That’s me for sure, likely to be you, and is most of your supporters and prospects—a real challenge when attention is the doorway to motivating them to sign, give, or register; then do it again.

Eventually, with a lot of hard work, Schwartz managed to self-discipline his way to less time online. But we can’t count on our people doing the same: “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive,” explains Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

Thanks to Schwartz, our challenge is now clearer but no less daunting:

  • With the Internet here to stay and distraction a given, how can your organization break through to connect with distracted donors and prospects, right now and for the duration? (I’d say relevance and respect are the only ways!)
  • What do you know about your audiences’ attention vs. distraction habits?
  • And how do you shape your campaigns to grab their immediate attention, then keep it, so they stay close and active?

Stay posted for the follow-up post, with suggested solutions from attention experts Ben Parr and the Brothers Heath.

P.S. Want to reduce your distraction addiction? Schwartz recommends you start each day with 60 to 90 minutes of uninterrupted work on your single most important to-do. Then, over time, add one or two more of these single-focus blocks—when you’re not online, checking email or answering the phone—to your day.

I’m going to give it a try. How about you? 

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Nancy Schwartz on May 17, 2016 in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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