The way that humans process information has changed: a recent study by Microsoft showed that “digital lifestyles deplete the ability to remain focused on a single task, particularly in non-digital environments” and that “Multi-screening [using multiple devices with screens simultaneously] trains consumers to be less effective at filtering out distractions”. This led to the rather eye catching headlines seen in publications such as the New York Times and Time magazine, along the lines of, ‘humans now have a lower attention span than goldfish’. The study revealed that, down from 12 seconds in 2002, humans (on average) can now hold their attention on one task without interruption for a mere 8 seconds, half a second less than a goldfish. But what does this mean for the voluntary sector?
In this current economic climate it is of the utmost importance that we in the third sector are making the most of the tools that we have at our disposal in order to maximise our impact. A key way to do this is through impact reporting.
Though Microsoft’s study may have shown the downsides, it also showed that marketers can “Defy expectations, leverage rich media and movement to grab attention” if they are “interactive, use sequential messaging, and build cohesive, immersive experiences across screens”. But what does that look like specifically regarding to impact reporting? Now that the way people consume information has changed it means the way we market information must too. The good thing about this however, is that we can return to very basic forms of information rather than having to go into huge depths of explanation.
We’ll be looking in more details at the specifics of putting together an impact report in next week’s blog where we’ll be interviewing One25’s communications director on how to compile an effective impact report, but for this week, here’s some key basic principles.
Keep it Simple. The less you write, the more people will read. Too much text will put people off, but if you use fewer words more effectively it will have greater impact. Buzzfeed have changed the way that online journalism is done, how? Simplicity. So many of their articles will be something along the lines of “10 reasons why…” or “the fifteen things you learn…”. These aren’t never ending essays full of argumentation and reasoning, they’re more often than not, pictures or graphics accompanied by only one or two sentences. This type of clickbait journalism was sneered at by much of the mainstream media at first, but now many (including the BBC and the Independent) have started to publish similar articles, upon realising that journalism that makes an impact must also adapt to people’s habits.
Stand out. Make sure your impact reporting is pleasing to the eye, ensure that it is beautifully designed and well put together. If this isn’t your area of expertise, find or hire someone who can design your impact report for maximum impact.
Connect. There are two aspects to ensuring your report manages to connect with people. Firstly on a more literal base: People are now more addicted to smart devices than ever. In Microsoft’s study 77% of people aged 18-24 said that “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone”. We have to reach people where they are. Is your impact report optimised to be seen on a mobile device? We must also consider the impact of social media. Are you using tools such as facebook’s facility to boost posts (for a relatively small fee) in order to be seen by thousands upon thousands of people? Secondly, impact reporting must connect on an emotional level. Endless reams of statistics, accounts and reports won’t grab people by the heart. As important as this information is, we must present information such as how many lives have been changed in a way that will connect with people emotionally, whether that is through pictures or stories told with a narrative that draws in the reader.
Thanks for reading, be sure to check back here on Monday for the second part of our series on impact reporting, where we'll be interviewing One25's communications director on how they compiled their report.