ITL #189 Capturing attention: how to overcome the problem of content shock

5 years, 7 months ago


Fear not! Despite the flood of content, marketers can win the fight for attention. By Michael T. Schröder.

More and more senders are producing more and more content, fighting you for the attention of your target group. Actually, despite all of this, it’s quite simple to get your communication out there.

But before we come to the solution to this problem, we need to consider: What even is content shock?

The term content shock first did the rounds in 2014 in the USA. In the last few months, it has been heard more and more frequently in German industrial circles. It describes the development whereby an ever increasing quantity – and sometimes quality – of content is being produced by senders.

In particular, online traditional forms of media (national and regional media, trade media etc.) alongside strictly online media (Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Trèsclick etc.) and new, ever more professional content publishers such as clubs, associations and NGOs as well as companies and brands, right through to influencers and celebrities (actors, athletes, models etc.) tout for the attention of audiences.


Information overload

This has two consequences. The target group is overrun with new content and – consciously or unconsciously – makes use of various new protection and filtering mechanisms. These include, for example, changing their media usage behaviour, additional personal/human filters, algorithms, fake profiles, fewer interactions, Facebook boycotts and adblockers, to name but a few.

The reach of the publishers is taking a hit and it needs further resources (time and/or money) in order to effectively penetrate through to the target audience and to be noticed.

So, how should a company or brand react to this culture shock?


Achieving success

Actually, it’s not as difficult as it seems. The following six points, even if one of two of them may seem like old news, hold the key. Believe me, if you can work on and internalise these points, your content strategy will be considerably better than the vast majority of stuff currently filling up feeds, portals and websites.

  1. Be true to yourself and work with realistic soft facts.

Start afresh with regard to key reach indicators and define new, valid targets and KPIs. Previously, it was common practice to rate a TV ad with a reach of x-million. A packshot in the crossword puzzle on page 12 of the Bild newspaper was given a reach value of Y million. The single poster in the industrial park is looked at 10 thousand times a day. The postal shot reached one hundred thousand homes. The Facebook page had 100 likes and the story on Spiegel online had a double digit millions reach.

Added together, this massive contact figure reaches over x-hundred million. Super! Except this doesn’t tell us how many people were really reached. And not at all whether these people were even part of our target group. Or if it had any effect on them.

The good thing is: Online, we can measure such factors much better and content marketing can become more targeted and more direct. We just have to – at the very latest now, as a result of content shock – clearly define what we want to achieve and then realistically and precisely size up the whole thing.

Furthermore, we have to understand the results and manage the internal expectations with regard to this. That means: In the B2B domain, for example, 500 or even 50 valid, direct contacts are much more valuable than 5 million overrated contacts reached. It’s preferable to reach, intrigue and emotionally involve 50,000 consumers from the core target group every month than generate 10 million potential contacts with unknown scattered interests.

  1. Very clearly establish who your target group is and really learn to understand these people.

Invest more time, money and thought into more precisely defining your target group and understanding them. Who is truly relevant for you?

Don’t speak to every potential customer but instead define and find the most likely, the most relevant (new) customer. And within this target group, it is then necessary to work out their exact needs and to determine their media usage behaviour.  

Then you can tailor your content, and the way in which you distribute it, to them. This then needs to be constantly reviewed and adapted, and the definition of the core target group will have to be continuously reassessed and changed.

  1. Be smarter and better.

Take even more time and apply even more of your knowledge to make a plan for which content, through which combination of channels and media, will be brought to the attention of the customer. Often, more is less.

Look for intelligent solutions, try new things out and don’t do what you always do, what the competition always does, what you read in blog XY or say in case XY. Constantly scrutinise, customise: Where should which content come into contact with which target group in order to achieve the desired result? The world, the target group and the media are in a constant state of change – and so should you be; be smart.  

  1. Learn to understand the new gatekeepers and protection mechanisms of your target group.

This complements points two and three.  Learn to understand the various gatekeepers and realise how your content needs to be edited to take these into consideration. Nowadays, gatekeepers are journalists, influencers, VIPs, algorithms on the social networking sites and search engines, to name but a few.

Find out how your target group tries to escape the flood of content coming towards them, how they select what is important for them, how they channel their attention and what tools they use to do so.

  1. Stand out from the masses.

I don’t want to talk too much about the content. Naturally, it must be good, relevant and offer a clear added value – and yes, the added value and relevance can be both emotional and entertaining.

But more than ever it makes sense to be individual, make yourself different, define your position, be unique. Even put others’ backs up, create some friction. Of course it has to be fitting to the brand and the company. But consider it again: would it work to maybe adopt a clearer position? To differentiate yourself more distinctly? To approach topics in a systematic, extensive and conscientious manner?

  1. Break down those siloes once and for all!

Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before….! But this time for real. You are so much more efficient and successful in content marketing, in your whole communication, the more synergy you can build and the better you link the online to the offline.

Network between Sales, CRM, PR and Marketing. Let them build upon one another. Think about it! And integrate content marketing into your entire organisation.

If you can take all of this to heart and put it into practice, you needn’t be afraid of content shock. Because in the future you will stand out from the crowd as relevant and visible, snatching the attention of the target group out of the hands of the competition.

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The Author

Michael T. Schröder

Michael T. Schröder has been CEO and owner since May 2007 of wbpr Public Relations in Berlin, now ORCA Affairs. He is also Global President, IPREX. Between 1988 and 1993 he was Managing Director of Ketchum Public Relations in Berlin, from 1995 CEO of ABC EURO RSCG Germany and Managing Director of the EURO RSCG advertising agency ThomsenRöhle, Berlin, and from 2000-2007 CEO and Chairman of Hill & Knowlton Germany.

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