Digital Essays: Bite Communications - Earning attention online

Consumers will reward only the smartest brands with the most coveted of things on the web - their attention.

This time last year we all agreed it was time to seize the opportunities that social media presented to us in return for losing some control along the way. This is, of course, still relevant, but I don't think that, as an industry, we can say we have dived straight into digital.

As the nation goes gaga over drumming gorillas, the gap between those who do digital and those who don't is getting wider all the time. And the PR industry as a whole still seems to be holding back.

Journalists are desperate for us to provide them with information more effectively. Indeed, recent research from Glide Technologies revealed that journalists would like much more multimedia content. They are frustrated when they cannot find basic press information online, are asked for passwords or are unable to access recent archive press information.

Anyone with an internet connection can spark a conversation with a global audience of millions, so it seems criminal that our number one target audience thinks we're still not communicating effectively with them online and giving them what they want.

Some brands are all over this, but I think many aren't and a social media newsroom is an easy place to start on a journey towards being digital.

Also, today's so-called attention market is more demanding than ever. Consumers are relentlessly bombarded with brand-generated communications and the internet has brought with it even more ways for brands and consumers to talk to each other - whether they are listening or not.

We have created a complex, ever-growing networked market for attention and now the competition is even tougher as brands use the internet to capture the attention of their target audiences online. When your brand messages are competing with sticky sunglasses, laughing cats and things in blenders, you have to do something creative to succeed.

So how do brands do this? For a start you can't buy attention any more. You can still spend huge amounts of money on advertising to interrupt consumers as they go about checking out all the other amazing stuff out there, but it's getting much harder to capture their full attention and achieve a desired response.

Today, you have to earn attention. Companies must create amazing products and services or execute an amazing idea that creates conversations about their brands. And because the market is so fierce right now, the threshold for making even the smallest of ripples on the web is incredibly high.

This places an unprecedented amount of importance on creativity and the ability to execute a good idea in a way that brings genuine value to the consumer and therefore earns their attention.

At a time when a corporate press site can attract more traffic than a major US news publication, there is a great opportunity for brands to think differently about the value of their content and how they can attract attention by being in the right places and, once they have been discovered, giving people what they want.

So brands should first make sure they have a presence everywhere their target audience wants to find them online. In that way, they can become part of the natural discovery process that takes place every single second on the web.

This requires an investment of time. Time to research target audiences carefully, time to establish exactly where and how they like to consume content, and time to find out what they really like to do on the web. And this includes journalists too - if they are spending their lives on Twitter, then why aren't we distributing news through that platform?

Once the brand is truly live online and has realigned its digital footprint to cover the most important touch points, we need to think about the bigger picture.

What can we do to create something amazing that gains attention and truly deserves it? By using specialist creative people with a deep understanding of how the web works and what brands need to do to engage with their online audiences effectively.

And that's where we come in - helping brands develop a live presence on the web and execute those amazing ideas that will earn them the attention they desire and the ability to deal with the fierce competition on the web of tomorrow.

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