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An Amazon Executive’s 4 Secrets to Capturing and Maintaining Your Audience’s Attention

For Amazon’s Kristin Graham, attention is the new professional currency.

During a Jan. 18 talk to PRSA Dallas, the company’s head of global employee communications tackled a recurring challenge in today’s information-heavy world: how to keep your audience invested and interested in your work.

Graham discussed how difficult it can be for modern leaders to effectively reach their employees, especially at a company as large as Amazon. According to a study published in the Daily Mail, employees are connected to technology at work for an average of 12 hours per day. When Graham joined Amazon Web Services in 2016, there were 10,000 employees. Today, that number is 40,000 and rapidly growing.

“So, how do you keep talking to them?” asked Graham, on the subject of coordinating with employees. “Being able to stay on top of how people consume information is critical to even making a small dent.”

In her 45-minute talk, Graham shared four tips for capturing and maintaining your audience’s attention — applicable for everything from effective internal communications to working with prospective clients.

1. Put your bottom line on Top (BLOT).

According to SproutSocial research, 49 percent of people read 111 words or less on web pages. That length is the “sweet spot” where you get the most bang for your client’s buck, Graham said.

Her tip to making most out of your 111 words: Embrace your BLOT, even in other written communications.

“This could be your email, it could be your visual — anything you’re trying to get attention on,” she said. “You don’t have to sell them; you just have to tell them.”

2. Give them bite-sized pieces.

The brain needs space to process information. When audiences become overloaded with too many messages on too many channels, they can’t absorb it all.

“It’s not about the intellectual capacity of your readers. It’s about the reality of what they’re going to be able to process in a day,” Graham said.

To keep audience attention, white space is critical. Break up your message into bite-sized pieces in descending order of importance, like the inverted pyramid structure.

3. Use visuals to win message retention.

Visuals add emotion to your message and make it more memorable. Studies show that 65 percent of people are visual learners, and combining words with strategic visuals can help audiences retain information longer.

One of Graham’s favorite example of this: KFC’s apologetic response to a chicken shortage, when the brand rearranged its name to spell “FCK” on a bucket of chicken.

4. Do fewer things better.

Graham challenged attendees to slow down and think about their communications strategies holistically, cutting out anything that doesn’t align with their target audience.

“Be aware of the pretty nothings,” Graham said. If you find yourself posting on a channel “just because,” take a step back and think about what makes sense for your brand and your audience. Focus on making, not just curating, content that’s sticky — and invest in those efforts.

“Content is still king,” Graham said, “but how you deliver it determines how well [the audience] will receive it.”


Brooke Traister, APR, is president of PRSA’s Dallas Chapter and a worldwide content marketing program manager at Texas Instruments. Named a Rising PR Star by PR News in 2018, she carries 10 years of experience working with technology, health care and travel/tourism brands. Reach her at brooketraister@gmail.com.

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Brooke Traister, APR

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