What we all really want is ATTENTION

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Public Relations  |  Marketing  |  Advertising

Since it's Friday, I'd like to be bold and boil down thousands of conversations I've had over the past ten years into one word: ATTENTION.


Image credit: engincamp

Entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business owners want people to pay attention to their company. Marketers, PR pros, advertisers, and salespeople are on the payroll for one reason: To generate attention.

In thinking about attention, there seem to be four main ways to generate it today.

You can BUY attention

This is called advertising.

You buy access to people through television commercials, magazine and newspaper ads, the Yellow Pages, billboards, tradeshow floor space, direct mail lists, and the like.

Advertising agency staffers are really good at buying attention. The problem is that whenever you have an attention problem and consult an advertising agency, the solution always involves buying attention.

You can BEG for attention

This is called Public Relations

You beg for access via the editorial gatekeepers at radio and TV stations, magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and more and more these days, bloggers, podcasters and other social networking sites.

I realize that the word "beg" is a little extreme, but in my former life as VP of corporate communications I did feel a bit like a beggar. And these days I get hundreds of pitches a month from people (usually PR agency staffers) who want me to write about something in this blog or my books or in magazine articles and many of these pitches have a whiff of desperation about them.

Public Relations agency staffers are really good at begging for attention. The problem is that whenever you have an attention problem and consult a public relations agency, the solution always involves generating attention from third parties.

You can BUG people one at a time to get attention

This is called sales.

You knock on doors, call people on the telephone, send personal emails, or wait for individuals to walk into your showroom.

Again, sorry about the extreme nature of the word "bug" but that's what I feel when the confronted with pushy sales tactics.

Salespeople are really good at getting attention one person at a time. The problem is that whenever you have an attention problem and consult a sales professional, the solution always involves generating attention one person at a time.

You can EARN attention online

There is debate on what this is called.

People have referred to creating information on the Web as "inbound marketing," "new marketing," "social media marketing," "content marketing," and "permission marketing." The idea of all of these is creating something interesting and publishing it online for free: A YouTube video, blog, research report, series of photos, twitter stream, ebook, Facebook fan page and the like.

An increasing cadre of social media gurus claim to be really good at generating attention through social media. The problem is that whenever you have an attention problem and consult a social media guru, the solution always involves earning attention by publishing content online.

I've come up with a few important things to understand about attention. Perhaps you have others to share here.

> You should know what the four ways to generate attention are. And you should understand the point of view of the person you are talking with about attention.

> Most organizations have a corporate culture around one of these approaches to generating attention. (Examples: P&G primarily generates attention through advertising, Apple via PR, EMC via sales, and Zappos via social media). Often the defining organizational culture is because the founder or the CEO has a strong point of view. When the CEO comes up through the sales track, all attention problems are likely to become sales problems.

> Chances are that your boss did not come up via the social media track. So you’ll have to convince your boss to invest in social media.

> Most organizations over spend on advertising and sales and under-invest in social media.

> Nearly all organizations should be doing some combination of all four ways of generating attention. For example, even though I am a huge proponent of using social media to generate attention, in the past year I have 1) bought Google AdWords advertising 2) Hired Fortier Public Relations to help promote my new book and 3) personally approached a few bookstores about stocking World Wide Rave. But the vast majority of my attention-generating efforts are in 4) creating content such as this post.

What do you think? What else is important about attention? Are there more than four ways? What’s the right mix? What does your company do?