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Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Lose an Audience's Attention

by Alison Davis  |  
December 19, 2006

Want to make sure your message doesn't get through? That your campaign disappears without a trace? That your communication program suffers a quick, painful death?

Then be sure to try one of these attention-stoppers. If, however, you'd like to successfully get your audience's attention, you might want to do the opposite of each of the following "7 Deadly Sins of Poor Communication."

1. Make it all about 'me'

A well-known healthcare company publishes a monthly employee newsletter filled with content that the CEO wants to communicate, written in language that appeals to MBAs. There's nothing wrong with the newsletter, really, as long as it's only distributed to the 15 people in the executive suite for whom it's written.

But the company prints 50,000 copies of the publication and sends it to all employees, who wonder what the content has to do with them.

The newsletter is what I'd call "vanity press," designed to stroke the ego of senior management, not meet the needs of its intended audience.

Even sophisticated companies sometimes fall into this "all about me" trap. For example, a billboard in an airport reads, "We're Acme, a global innovative company that helps the needs of businesses and communities right here in the United States." I can hear the audience asking, "What does this mean to me?" as they walk right by.

What to do instead: Know your audience, and make your communication all about them.

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Alison Davis is coauthor (with New York Times columnist Paul B. Brown) of the new book Your Attention, Please: How to Appeal to Today's Distracted, Disengaged and Busy Audiences (Adams Business, 2006) and is CEO of employee communications firm Davis & Company. For more information about the book, go to Amazon or

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