By Published On: March 14, 2013

Nobody reads anymore. We both know it. Even now, you’re scanning ahead for the juicy bits.

The average attention span for readers is 2.6 seconds. Plus, today’s consumers have the power to choose where they spend that 2.6 seconds.

So what’s a copywriter to do? How do we get – and keep – people’s attention in an ever-more-complex media soup?

Here are a few guidelines. Some are new, but most have stood the test of time, trend and technology and are more important than ever for one reason: regardless of environment (digital or print) or medium (text or billboard) – they work.

Stop interrupting.
People have more control over the content they choose to view, so it’s harder to interrupt them. And using tricks or gimmicks to get people’s attention often just puts them off and makes them less likely to give you a second chance. Instead of trying to be the biggest or loudest, get their attention with content that means something to them.

Write for the medium.
A print ad  has a different structure (or architecture) than a catalog or editorial piece, and therefore requires a different copy approach. The same is true for a web site versus a text message and so on. Weigh the value of your words against the cost of the real estate and make sure they balance.

Get to it already.
What do you really want to say? What do you want them to remember from the 2.6 seconds they spent with you? Define your main message(s) – then be clear, consistent in your presentation, and concise.

Watch your language.
Know the demographics and psychographics and other details about what makes your audience tick. Apply the brand voice and write to that. But don’t let the language become so stylized that it distracts from the point(s) you’re trying to make.

Keep it real.
Even if you’re writing for a conservative, business-to-business audience, lose the corporate jargon and hyperbole and speak like you’re sitting next to a real live person, talking about whatever it is over a cup of coffee. Take every opportunity to make a human connection.

And stop talking about yourself.
Talk about them, their concerns, what they may need and how you can help.  It’s not about you, so don’t come out of the gate with what you do and how awesome you are. Ever have a date with someone like that? Bet there wasn’t a second date.

Work your close.
Don’t lose your steam on the way out. The call to action (or whatever the wrap-up) is where you have a chance to synopsize the story you’ve told, once again draw their attention to the very most important parts, and give them a reason to want more.

Kill the clutter.
Resist the urge to fill up a blank sheet of paper (virtual or otherwise) because you think you’re going to get better bang for your copy buck if you say as much as possible in the allotted space. Keep to your main messages. Give a reader too much all at once and they’ll just turn the page or click away.  White space is your friend.

Love your designer.
Magic happens when there is true collaboration between copy and design. Design can turn an otherwise unremarkable line into an eye-stopping graphic element, and give real weight to the last word.


What do you think? Did you find this piece helpful, or give you an idea for a future topic? Please tell us.

About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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