Amazon comms exec extols bite-size messages

‘We absolutely have to make our content snackable,’ Kristin Graham tells a packed conference audience. Stats show the alarming level of distraction, but she offers key ways to break through.   

Amazon storytelling tips

About half your audience will stop reading your message after 111 words.

That’s not all: They’re also checking hundreds of emails daily.

“Multitasking is the myth that erodes our efficiency,” Kristin Graham, principal of culture and communications at Amazon, told a packed house of 300 communicators at the Employee Communications, PR & Social Media Summit at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Graham shared many sobering—and jarring—statistics about how we consume information and what that means for the future of communication.

  • 111 words: Length of message where 49% of people will stop reading
  • 40 seconds: Average attention span for digital tasks
  • 12 hours: Amount of time a day employees are connected to technology for work.
  • 26%: Adults who wake up during the night and check their mobile device
  • 74: How many times per day people check email
  • 23 minutes, 15 seconds: Time it takes to restore your full focus after absorbing unrelated information.

These are the obstacles you face as a communicator. Understanding this reality will help you package and produce material more efficiently for your distracted audience.

“We absolutely have to make our content snackable,” Graham said. “This is critical.”

Here’s why and how:

What’s your BLOT (bottom line on top)? In other words, what’s your point? Bring it up to the top. Put your blot in your subject lines, captions, video teasers, etc. Break it up with space and bullet points.

“White space is the cleansing breath for the brain,” Graham says.

Neuroscience shows there is a sweet spot for processing dense information. It’s our job to pay attention to what the science tells us.













The magic number is seven. This dates to 1950s research, which showed the pivotal figure of seven (plus or minus two) is how much information people can retain on a short-term basis. Your recipient is going to recall five to nine minutes of your town hall information, for example.

Go beyond email. You must “include some type of visual in your larger communication package,” Graham advises, because 65% of us are visual learners.

“Work to the strengths of the brain,” she said. Eighty percent of people will retain what they see, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than plain text. Suggest an infographic to package a company message, rather than a long, dry email no one will read or retain.

The numbers don’t lie. Maybe your exec says, “Everybody knows our strategy, because we emailed them.” No, they don’t.

Help package the information by tying it up with a better bow. Start quoting data. It will land your messages—and help you get a seat at the table.

“Flex those muscles, and your credibility will improve as well,” Graham said.

Organic video is tops. Communicators have to “lean into mobile and video,” because “that’s where communications is going,” Graham said. Email will always be there, but “the picture is worth a thousand words.”

You don’t need a studio. You can do it with your smartphone. In fact, smartphone videos are more credible.

“They’re dismissive of our overly produced pieces,” Graham said. “They find it credible when it is organic.”

In fact, 62% of video viewing starts on mobile. Employees aren’t watching the 90-minute town hall webcast. The average retention rate for videos over 30 minutes is a scant 14%.

“If we produce it, that does not mean that they will come,” Graham says. Distill town halls into snackable videos.

Oh, and sound isn’t as important as might think. On Facebook, 85% of videos are viewed without sound. Scripts “are less and less critical.”






















Beware of “pretty nothings.” These are the “empty calories of corporate communications,” Graham said.

This “Generic Brand Video” by Dissolve illustrates what Graham means by pretty nothings:

Stop doing those things. Rather, she says: “Do fewer things better. Slow down and pick a few things, and be excellent at those.”


2 Responses to “Amazon comms exec extols bite-size messages”

    Urszula Murphy says:

    Plenty of good advice here for creating communiations that the audience can consume with ease and (hopefully) interest. Thank you for sharing!

    What is the scientific evidence for the claim that ” visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than plain text”? It’s one of those sparkling stats that I’d LOVE to use in pushing for visual tools, but I’d like to know how we know that. Daily Headlines

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