Goldfish have longer attention spans than us. Go figure.
I have written before on this blog about how difficult it is for companies to build a reputation, tell their story or even apologize in a time of crisis when we live in a world of hyper-distraction. Who remembers when they last finished an article from start to finish? When I routinely ask this question in presentations, I’d say that 10% say they finished reading what they started that very morning.
A few nights ago, I met with a few reputation experts I know and we bemoaned the fact that we are all having trouble managing our time. One person asked me how I had time to write on my blog. He used to be prolific but between his job and having young kids, he’s out of time most of the time. Just asking me that question got me all anxious because I feel that I don’t write enough. I feel as if I edit and write a lot at work and finding time on top of my job for my blog is next to impossible. That is probably why I spend my weekends working and writing on my blog. I just can’t fit it all in otherwise. My fellow reputation expert had noticed that I often write on Saturdays and here it is, Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and that is what I am up to. I am stealing 30 minutes to write something so I feel calmer. It is the ultimate stress-reliever for me.
A few weeks ago, I came across this article which says it all. A study by Microsoft found that our ability to multi-task has improved with all this access to smartphones and social media, but our attention spans have diminished. According to the article, our attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds on average and now is just 8 seconds. Not that 12 seconds is something to celebrate in the first place! However, 8 seconds is pretty paltry when you compare it to that of a goldfish which is estimated to have a 9-second attention span.
All this brings me back to thinking about how can companies fight the good fight when it comes to reputation-building. How can a company build or safeguard its reputation when we cannot concentrate long enough to hear about their sustainability, innovation, customer-service, talent or great earnings? What’s a company to do if all we can give them is 8 seconds? Perhaps this explains a finding in our recent CEO Reputation Premium study where 50% of global executives said that CEO reputation is expected to matter more in a few years. Are CEOs going to continue to be one of the prime channels for getting messages out and listening to customers and employees before harm is done? Or is something else going to rise up and supplant the CEO as spokesperson. Employees are already taking a stab at it. Remains to be seen.