6 Ways to Create Content that Catches Attention

6 Ways to Create Content that Catches Attention

October 15th, 2012

You know that important content you’ve spent so much time creating? The content that could really help your prospects? The content that could encourage them to cross the line and purchase from you?

There is a high chance that your prospects and clients probably won’t see your message. They’ll be too preoccupied with something else. Something important, or maybe something trivial. It doesn’t matter what it is. Either way, they’ll never get your message.

What’s the culprit in this deficit of attention? It’s something called the reticular activating system (RAS). It’s important to realize that it’s not just the source of inattention — it’s also your only hope of getting through to your prospects.

RAS: The reason you notice your new car everywhere

There are so many stimuli coming at us every moment; so many things that happen every day, that we can’t possibly focus on everything. If we did, we’d go crazy! Thankfully, our brains are equipped with something called the reticular activating system. Its purpose? It helps us focus on only certain things, and filter out the rest.

The classic example that is used is the example of buying a new car. Have you ever noticed that when you buy a new car you suddenly notice that same car everywhere? You feel like, “Man, I must be a trendsetter! Everyone’s copying me.“

Did the car you bought somehow become popular just after you bought it?

Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re not that influential (yet). What’s happening is just an example of your RAS at work. Your RAS used to ignore those things (new cars) when you thought they weren’t important. But as soon as you cared about those things, you suddenly saw what was always there!

How to harness the power of the reticular activating system

How can we ensure that our important content messages make it past the RAS and are actually seen by our prospects and customers? Here are six suggestions:

1. Use intriguing and provocative titles

We live in an age where “busy” is the new normal. People are overwhelmed, and their attention spans are shrinking. That means people are skimming their inboxes, skimming the news headlines, etc. And what stops them and causes their RAS to take notice? Intriguing and provocative titles.

2. Use stories

The RAS loves a good story. It will almost always let a good story through its gates to your prospects’ minds.

3. Attach your content to things that have already made it past the RAS

With so much going on nowadays and so many distractions, any way you can break through the static is a huge benefit for you. For that reason, you need to do your best to attach your content to things that your prospects’ RAS has already let through. Doing this is like giving you — and your product or service — a little “hook” to hang on in someone’s mind. One way to do this is to tie your content to current trends, people in the news, etc.

4. Attach your content to things that your prospects and customers really care about

This idea is closely related to the last, but has a subtle and important difference. Remember the examples of the new car? This item made it through your RAS, because it was suddenly relevant and important to you. It wasn’t because it was a current “conversation” that existed in your mind — it was because it was now a current passion or desire that existed in your heart. You need to learn to connect the dots between your prospects’ passions and your content.

5. Use the power of the surprise and the unexpected

You want to make sure your content avoids the “boring” category, and one surefire way to do this is to add an element of surprise or the unexpected. If your content surprises the RAS, then you will be allowed in.

6. Use the power of anticipation

Most people never think about the almost invisible impact that anticipation has on the content we present.

The “power of anticipation” allows content to bust through people’s RAS. You can use this power of anticipation by doing your best to consistently post quality content. But you also need to do some other things. You need to do everything you can to get your content validated by other respected people in your industry, as well as to get people who think highly of your content to share their opinion with others.

If the content message you are working on is important, then (for the sake of your prospects and your own business) you can’t just hope it will make it through the clutter. Understanding the reticular activating system and how to break through it is your greatest hope. Otherwise all your efforts might end up causing your business to be just another casualty on the battlefield.