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Why communicating in 2020 is a bit like starting a comedy career

21 Jul 2020

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve read the term ‘business as usual’ this quarter, I could probably fund a 2021 arts degree. It seems the world is repeating it, like an affirmation, craving stability after a record run of challenging circumstances.

Now that you’re here, this is about sustained crises and the attention economy. I wonder if you’d still have clicked onto this page if it had COVID-19 in the title.

The new decade has been marred with sustained crises: the seemingly endless bushfire season, dwarfed by the unpredictable global pandemic. Even COVID-19 is arguably overtaken by the decades-long climate crisis that is hurtling towards a worrying precipice. 2020 is a browser with too many tabs open, and we’re all starting to lose track.

We’ve been talking about the attention economy for decades, and we know its anatomy: more messages and messengers every second. Shorter attention spans. The saturation of the public sphere. So, when attention real estate is the only thing more sought after than affordable housing, and we’re contending with diminishing mental investment as the adrenaline of sustained crises plateaus, how can communicators keep their material fresh?

Delivery is a critical skill. It’s easy to base our timing on organisational need but taking an audience-first approach to timing helps undercut the saturation. Pay attention to receptiveness and deliver your most important message when your audience can welcome it. Good timing is the lynchpin, not a luxury.

Sometimes there’s value in a misdirect. With such a volume of iterative, possibly dry organisational messages to convey, a creative set up can help bring audiences along for the ride. Inventive headlines, unexpected hooks and building messages into interesting stories may stave off decreases in engagement.

Content is rarely as engaging the second time—unless you’ve planned it. Repetitive messages can become less successful over time, whereas if you set it up well, revising your messages can expand their value. Build frequent messages into series, or at the very least, iterate them with intention.

Comics know there are dividends in a little bit of clever thinking.

Never waste a good crisis, we say. Perhaps we should never waste a day without one, because the ratio is shifting.


Lisa is an experienced writer and communicator who relishes opportunities to work with interesting and complex content. She has explored how language impacts the well-being of veterans and first responders, tackled the impact of automation on employment in the resources sector, and is now designing strategic communication to build trust in government data practices on behalf of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Lisa’s roles have spanned professional research, communication and marketing advisory, content design, media, and events and activations. With a penchant for connecting ideas, the great love of her career is creating unexpected campaigns that achieve real change.

Connect on LinkedIn: Lisa Ranson

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