Violette Smiling

I think that when marketers and PR practitioners talk so often about “engagement” and trying to understand its mechanics, I feel that what most people seek is “attention” and then “intention” and not exactly engagement. As the parent of two young children, I can tell you that “attention” is a valuable coin. Instead of “pay attention,” I wish the phrase were “invest attention,” because I feel that the more attention I give to my children, the more they see that I’m seeking to understand them and see them fully, the more they open up to being who they intend to be with me.

I shot a quick video about this, as well:

If you can’t see the video, click here.

When I put my little boy on the bus this morning, the other two kids wanted desperately to show me their Halloween costumes. One was a vampire girl from Monster High and the other was a biker, complete with a goatee. When I made extra special care to compliment the boy with the goatee while stroking my own to show that we were two of a kind, he lit up with a big proud smile. When I shared with the girl a few lines that her character from Monster High would have said (my daughter’s watched the show a few times), she lit up inside knowing that I knew exactly who she was.

The same experience is exactly true for adults. We all stumble around hoping to be understood. We all feel like we don’t belong somewhere. We all slip into that awkward feeling. It might come when we read something we don’t fully understand. It might come when we are pushed into a work environment that doesn’t suit our personalities. But we find ourselves there as adults, and those very rare moments when someone breaks the barrier and shows us that they see us, that they are giving us attention, that’s the magical moment.

Attention into Intention

To me, once you’ve invested enough attention, then it’s much easier to seek an intention. If you want someone to read your stupid PR pitch, they will be much more likely to do so if they feel like you know who they are, and like you know each other’s work, and maybe even a little bit more about each other. This is clearly not fast work. This is clearly not easily measurable work. And yet, it’s how these things go best.

When I walked into Jason Kintzler’s booth for PitchEngine at a recent PRSA national event, I was checking in with someone I’d known for a few years, and whose progress I’d followed. Jason didn’t have to push me for engagement. We had had each other’s attention, so he earned the ability to execute on his intention: in this case, to show me his product’s updates.

What Does This Mean, Practically?

Here’s the rub. No one in the management cares about this. The CEO and CFO give you a marketing budget and they say, “for that amount of money, I expect this many sales.” They don’t say, “I’d love it if you get to know the people before you try to sell them.” And this method I’m talking about isn’t especially efficient, if you’re still seeking only transactional experiences. But this is really just a part of the method, a part of the Way. How does it fit? Depending on your position and responsibilities, it’s something like this:

Traditional PR
Customer Service

Okay, so in my world, Marketing owns customer service. It’s not a reality yet, but it’s something I’m striving to make real. But, depending on how one puts their budgets together, to me, Attention/Intention is somewhere around where you’d put your social media efforts, your blogger relations efforts, and matters like that. To me, the beauty of working on attention is that you can work on finding people who might love what you sell, and who might have communities of their own, and you can embrace them and work towards their intentions. In a way, this is a mix of what people are already stabbing at with social media plus blogger relations (which continues to be horribly broken).

One Last Thing: The Enemy

The enemy of Attention is Impatience. This isn’t something you try to rush, try to game, or try to expedite by some electronic means, at least not all of it. One part of attention is providing interesting content for conversations and consideration. That can be somewhat automated, obviously. But responses, interactions, and the like, are meant to be non-scalable environments. You can talk as much as you can talk, and that’s about it. If you can’t get to everyone, you can’t get to everyone. But you cannot (in my not nearly humble opinion) revert to a bunch of electronic means to try and skip some steps in this regard.

What do you think? Are we seeing this the same way? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • danohart

    Honestly, I think I really want engagement. I will happily give attention to anyone…..but having two people talk about my product with each other(engagement), I like that a bunch…..and sometimes like it more when that happens.

    • Kelly Tirman

      I agree with what you are saying but I think where Chris is going with this is once you have give attention to an individual you create a relationship. As a result of that relationship they will not only buy but become an advocate for your brand —-> then engagement happens.

      Ted Rubin talks about this a lot but he calls it “Return on Relationship”

    • Chris Brogan

      I’m with Kelly. I think what I’m trying to say is that working hard to measure engagement is missing the larger opportunity. 

  • Diane Brogan

    You really are brilliant, This is one of the most personal, concise, right on blogs you have ever written. You are so right. Age doesn’t matter. It is all about attention. Thank you for saying it so well.

    • Chris Brogan

      Thanks, Mom. I appreciate it. Kids teach me something every day. 

      • Kelly Tirman

        Love that your mom comments on your blog!

        • Chris Brogan

          Me too. : ) 

    • Amy Neal Miyamoto

      Funny, I wrote my comment above before reading this one from your mother – yet she said almost verbatim what I was thinking in my head.  And to weave in a reflection to your reply – there is a piece of magic in this post related to the way you have chosen to include the wisdom gleaned about “attention” from your role as a father.  A wise woman once told me, “your daughters are here to be your greatest spiritual teachers.”  At the time, I didn’t give it to much thought.  Over the years, this truth has been unfolding more and more powerfully.  I see this same powerful wisdom “working” its way into your “work”.  By the several responses I see here regarding this post, there was a “recognition of the heart” that was achieved, via the “teaching” you selected and the “Stories” you chose to support the unwrapping of that gift.  Just my two cents. ;)
      P.S.  Your mom seems like she is of the “rock star” coolio variety…lucky you and your kiddos.

  • Jeff Korhan

    I think so.  Attention is awareness that creates the opportunity for intention to produce something of value.  Patience is indeed the enemy. It kills attention.

    Intention is valueless without attention.  You need both to produce results.

    The children at the school bus stop is perfect, as it gives us a more human perspective that can be applied to business matters.

    • Chris Brogan

      Sounds like we’re on the same page. : ) 

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  • Rick Manelius

    Brilliant. I can easily see it in my own reactions in my journey’s around the internet. The people who have actually taken the time to comment on my blog/google plus feed get my attention back because they simply cared enough (at least in my eyes) to acknowledge me. Call me a young kid at heart, but I think we all care about impact and being heard.

    Loved the vid. But it clipped out at the 2:06 mark. I felt like there was another punchline coming :)

    • Chris Brogan

      That wasn’t intentional, the video ending, but I like it now. I think of it as a way to see if someone watched it or not. : ) 

      • Rick Manelius

        I always loved the game of inserting a random sentence into a conversation to see if people were actually listening. It’s always fun to watch people miss it and yet know they missed something.

        I guess with video, you could always put something silly at the end, get a comment, and then others watch the video with the anticipation for the inside joke/gaff/etc.

  • Kelly Tirman

    I think this is very insightful post Chris. Probably one of your best ever.

    attention + intention = natural engagement. By getting to know someone (a.k.a providing attention) you find common ground. Once you have common ground you can establish an intention (example: buy product). As a result of this relationship you now have a advocate for your brand that will engage others.

    I believe this is what Ted Rubin likes to refer to as “Return on Relationship”

    Kelly Tirman

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you, Kelly. : ) 

      Know what makes me giggle? Every single post I write hits with SOMEONE differently, such that they say they think it’s one of my best ever. But it’s always a different person and always a different post. In a way, I feel blessed. In another way, I think, “wow, I have NO idea what hits with who and why.” I guess that’s what makes the writing fun. : ) 

      • Kelly Tirman

        Yep. everyone has different things they are passionate about. This is definitely one of mine.

      • Frank Dickinson

        This is what keeps me interested in your writing Chris, you touch on so many different topics within your niche that you pull different pull in on all different levels of the conversation.

        I’ve said to myself – “that’s the best thing I’ve read or watched by Brogan” and then you’ll cross over into another area and I’ll say “No, that’s the best.” Not sure I’m making any sense here – just keep doing what you’re doing – it works!

  • Rick Manelius

    Another note: How to effectively use social media tools is the number 1 request and the number 1 pain point on everyone I talk to regarding their web business. I’ll admit that for the last few years, I was too focused on the various technology components and simply assumed that the same social behaviors we use in our day to day life would translate to the social sphere. 

    This revelation is forcing me (in a good way) to reshape my businesses. Now my focus will be on both the technology AND how to effectively use said technology to create their platform. Again, no more assumptions. And even more importantly, it’s going to help THEIR clients get the engagement/treatment/connection that they are looking for.

    Looking forward to building out platforms in 2012 :)

  • Jeff Molander

    Indeed, Chris, our collective use of social media (as marketers) is too focused on immediacy, measurement and scale– often causing us to fail at executing the non-scaleable success principles that go all the way back to Dale Carnegie (and beyond).

    But do you really think that if Jason had left out **relevancy** you’d have offered him the chance to express his intention? I think this is a huge myth, Chris, being spread around the social media realm. And I’m pretty sure you understand this very clearly (more than others). Attention rarely leads to opportunities for others to execute on intention without relevancy. And engagement (over the years) doesn’t earn it either. Not without relevancy. Right?

    Your goatee was more relevant than it was attention-grabbing to that boy, right? Did he offer you the smile based on your smile or your goatee? 

    And can we really blame CEOs? Isn’t that kinda easy to do? Especially when many marketers *are* using attention+relevance to earn the right to execute their intention. Look at B2B marketing, for instance. These people are masters at listening for insights, processing them and then nurturing customers with systematic marketing methods designed to earn the sale. This has long been part of the game. Now some execute better than others for sure… but **what B2B marketers do with** attention+relevancy is what makes the difference, right?

    Your perspective on impatience is spot-on. I assume you’re describing our (marketers’) impatience. Point for consideration: Impatience is not going away. So let’s start working with it. Maybe I’m reading too much Eckhart Tolle lately but it works for me. And beyond that I have no real life thoughts on how to actually do that. Yeah, too much Tolle :) but automation is obviously not the key!

    • Chris Brogan

      Hi Jeff! 

      I think you’re right that relevancy matters. You’re right to put it out there. Hmmm. Maybe I have to rewrite this. 
      Using the goatee is a great example of that.

      And no, I don’t blame CEOs one bit. Hope that’s not how I came off. Instead, my point was that it’s not their business to be stuck “in the weeds” of execution, and that they’re not looking for this level of detail.

      Thanks for a really thought out response. 

  • Jeff Molander

    Hi, Kelly…
    Per my comment, I think you might be leaving out relevancy. I don’t see how one can find common ground simply via attention. Can you?

    • Kelly Tirman

      agreed attention has to be relevant but when your kids want attention isn’t that what you give them? 

      • Jeff Molander

        Great question. Got me to really think. My answer is no. I am not a perfect parent. I cannot expect myself (no matter how hard I try) to be relevant, truly “connected” with my child, at every moment he demands my attention.

        Don’t you sometimes just give them attention without that connection? 

        The goal IMHO is to minimize those interactions by being what Eckhart Tolle (and so many others like him) call “present.”  And ultimately presence is all about tacit relevancy. At least this is how I see it :) and thanks for making me think, Kelly.

        • Kelly Tirman

          I don’t want to sound like “supermom” because I am far from it, but yes the attention I give my daughters is almost always relevant. As a working mom my 1:1 time with them is too precious and they deserve it.

          For the sake of your point (which is valid) I am changing the (draft) equation to:

          Return on relationship is…relevant attention + intention = natural engagement.

          • Rick Manelius

            My only fear of equations in social media is people then run with it mechanically while losing the essence of what it really means!

            But I like your result… with ‘relevant’ being key. I can smile and nod, faking attention… but what good would that do? :)

  • James Moffat

    Love this Chris. I actually think the technology makes is harder to really pay attention and show intention. If you talk to someone in a room you have a sack full of learned social signifiers to use. Do it online and the media filters a lot of this out. The end result: If you want to use digital channels to for fulfilling, worth relationships, you have to work even harder in digital comms than in the real world and it takes even longer. 

  • susangiurleo

    Business-types work to ‘make the numbers,’forgetting that those numbers are people. People aren’t hard to sell to, really, if you make them feel that they matter. It’s basic psychology…very, very basic. And I laugh when I see all the shenanigans people go through to get conversions, more opt-ins, more bells and whistles. Jeez, just look people in the eye, say hello, offer something useful, respond to questions. The tools do not matter. Do it on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, a sign outside the building…
    But be  a person and PEOPLE will buy what you have.

  • Jason Walker

    Customer service is so so important and I must admit that your children analogy is just as true. If people can relate to that then they should start taking notice.

  • Kakie Fitzsimmons

    Invest attention = ROI. I LOVE your conversation Chris, you remind us to look at ourselves in new ways and I am grateful for that. 

  • Ryan Biddulph

    The attention/intention note is spot on Chris. The more you invest genuine, undivided attention toward someone, the more these folks feel your intention. 

    Thanks for sharing!


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  • Kim Tudor

    Spectacular post Chris!  I’m sending this one ’round the office.   The video seemed to end abruptly … was it meant to continue?  BTW, you are a superstar.

  • Amy Neal Miyamoto

    And this post is why I read “Chris Brogan” regularly… ;) There are so many elements of this post that are so right on. It is hard to put into works actually the nuances of what you have woven together in this post – yet appropriately they would all fall under the umbrella of you sharing and modeling the ‘best practices” of  how “Human Business Works” when it is truly working!  I love the point you emphasize here about impatience.  Impatience is one of the greatest barriers I see online to building truly mutually beneficial long-term win-win relationships between businesses and customers.

    On the smaller scale I have experienced how you consistently walk your talk on this point and from a large scale position I love how Zappos has thought “outside the box” from the beginning with this as a top priority in every part of their customer AND employee loyalty experience. ;)

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  • Bernthis

    When I am pitching a company, I do my best to talk very little. I will ask the questions and I will let them answer with very little interruption. I might stop and ask for some clarification but I find that if you let someone talk you will learn an incredible amount about who they are, their needs, wants and desires whether they are talking about themselves or on behalf of the company.   This allows me to then tailor my pitch in a much more direct and personal way because it shows the client that I was paying attention and I know how much the client appreciates the fact that their time is not being wasted.

    • Amy Neal Miyamoto

      Your story reminds me of a very practical application of The Sacred At of Listening – by Kay Lindahl. ;)

  • Marcie_Hill

    As usual, you are quite timely. I recently had a meeting with a prospect who wanted me to pitch my services to him. He said, “I see what you do, but how can you help me?” That was the first time I had ever gotten that question, and I was more than happy to respond. I listened to what he had to say; I conducted research on the topics of discussion; and I responded. I’m certain he will become a client.

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  • Daniel Souza

    nice post Brogan! It relates to serious studies about influence. 

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  • Adam Helweh

    I love this post Chris. You have packaged and communicated quite nicely an approach I have used for the last few years. I also appreciate that you addressed the problem with trying to shortcut the process by automating it. I think the thing that many cannot fathom is that by investing attention they can gain more than they ever were able to with all of the automated advertising approaches they could ever muster. There is a direct connection between this and social capital. Your examples with the kids were excellent. 

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  • Henry Louis

    It is very interesting to read this article and good points are mentioned through video also regarding attention and intention.

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