7 ways Amazon hooks distracted employees

Attention spans are shrinking, and your audiences are overwhelmed. The answer? Snackable content. Otherwise … hey, look! A squirrel!

Amazon communications tips

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

Twelve hours, says Kristin Graham, is the amount of time per day your employees are connected to technology for work.

Don’t think you have half a day to lecture them, however. Seven seconds is the amount of time you have to capture their attention with a given message, the head of employee communications for Amazon Web Services adds.

When busy humans receive a communication, she says, “We want to instantly know what it is; is it relevant to me? And if not, you are not going to get my attention.”

For those who grew up in a world of words, it’s hard to make the adjustment. Yet we have less time and fewer words to grab people’s… oh, look! A funny picture of guilty-looking dogs that tore the house apart while their owner was out.

Where were we?  Oh: “Internal communications is not a department,” Graham says. “It’s an expectation of our employees, of our people, and it’s because we live in the world of perpetual conversation.”

Graham once worked for a company that did surveys every 18 months. At Amazon, they do quick polls daily. (One Amazon question: “Are you comfortable debating ideas/opinions with your manager?”)

Following are some ways to keep the attention of your overloaded employees. And, hey, how about them Cubs? Let’s check the score.

1. No. Not like that. Shorter. Way shorter.

Study after study has revealed that 111 words is the point in a message at which 49 percent of people will stop reading. People just stop because they can’t consume any more, Graham says.  So how come some of us are indulging our execs in 1,000-word think pieces?

“One hundred and eleven words actually sounds luxurious until you open that letter from Gary in Finance,” Graham says.

“We’re seeing that people just stop, because they just cannot consume any more.”

(Overconsumption? That reminds me, have we booked the tickets to visit Mom and Pop in Omaha on Thanksgiving? Quick, check Expedia while the boss is away from her desk.)

2. Snackable means images.

Speaking of content, Graham says, “We must continue to challenge ourselves to be snackable—bite-sized pieces.”

(Snacks? Come to think of it, I could go for a package of peanut M&M’s.)

Where were we? Oh, yes, snackable content. Because with images, you can reach your audience 60 times faster than with those 111 words.

3. Go live.

Whether you’re working on the internal or external side of the aisle, one lesson is constant: People stay on live video three times longer than prerecorded. (Say, what’s up on Facebook Live?)

“Our job is to get attention, yes,” Graham says, “but we still want that stickiness factor.”

4. How much can your exec say in three minutes?

When Graham worked at Expedia, they recorded the chief financial officer for a broadcast called “Q1 in Three Minutes.” There was a countdown clock in the background, like a game show, and pop-up graphics kept it lively. He was given three minutes to spit out everything that he could about the first-quarter results, and what everyone should know about earnings.

“It was jazzy, and it was edgy,” Graham says.

5. Be reactive.

How do build employee trust in the midst of crises large and small? You must react at once. It’s fine to be proactive, but we seldom have that luxury in a fast-moving world.

She cites an apology ad from Kentucky Fried Chicken in the United Kingdom after they—yes—ran out of chicken. (Did you know that alligator tastes like chicken? Let’s Google alligators! Which reminds me of Florida. Better clear out the calendar for Ragan’s annual Disney conference next year.)

KFC’s crisis response, in which they rearranged the letters of their name into a near curse. Though some were offended by the implied epithet, the response models a quick and clever response for internal and external communicators, Graham says.

AdWeek stated, “KFC went through a highly publicized, somewhat bizarre crisis in the U.K. this week: The fast-food joint known for its fried chicken ran out of chicken. Now, KFC is apologizing with a creative stunt: rearranging its name to spell ‘FCK.’”

6. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Speed up your presentation.

Here’s how: PechaKucha 20×20, a presentation format, enables you to show 20 images for 20 seconds each—a total of six minutes. The images advance automatically, preventing you (or Gary in Finance) from droning on.

7. Use virtual reality.

Virtual reality may seem futuristic as an internal communication tool, but it’s already here. Walmart, the only company on earth that employs more people than Amazon, is using virtual reality to train sales associates.

Deutsche Bank shows job candidates a virtual reality tour of its worldwide offices. The message is, “Here are all the places you could potentially work with our global offices,” from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro.

Rio? Wouldn’t that be nice. Let’s Google the beaches of Brazil and see what turns up. Beats nodding off in the meeting chaired by Gary in Finance.

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