Are You Listening?

As a strategic media relations agency, iMedia Public Relations actively works to garner the attention of media in order to deliver client messages to the public. While we are strategic in our approach, targeting those outlets that speak to the audiences we want to reach with such messages, the real work begins at the inception of the program.  That’s when we listen to the goals and objectives of the client.  It’s the most important part of the process and one that agencies and clients often ignore because they have their own agendas.  By listening we can learn the intricacies of the client business, as well as develop questions that lead to further knowledge and create more opportunities to communicate their message.

About 14 years ago, I attended a men’s retreat sponsored by the Holy Name Society of St. Clement Church in Matawan, New Jersey.  While it was a spiritual day, the great learning I took from the day-long event and have incorporated into my practice as a communications professional ever since was the importance of listening.  I was in a small group with Don Miller, a deacon at our church.  He spoke to us about the class in listening that he took when he was studying for the deaconate.  As he expressed to us, listening was part of the curriculum for deacons, because it was an essential element in their future ministry. It was something they would need during their meetings with couples preparing for marriage, talking to those seeking annulment and visiting the sick.

The listening process is one that has benefitted the finest journalists over the years. The best interviewers are those that not only are well-prepared but listen to the person they are interviewing.  Its fine to have a prepared list of questions but the best question asked can come directly from an individual’s last response.  If an interviewer is not listening intently and instead is only concerned with the next question on his agenda, they will miss the opportunity.

I have been in meetings and pitches over the years with colleagues who fail to listen.  It always leads to a total disconnect with the individuals communicating their vision.  How can they be expected to hire you as their communications agency if you refuse to listen to them?  It’s perfectly fine to question their thinking and plans and make suggestions, but if you go in with a pitch all about you and don’t take the time to listen to what they are saying, how will you be able to develop a plan and strategy to meet their goals?

For years brands looked to captivate consumer audiences through their commercials and advertisements that used catchy slogans, jingles and art.  With the advent of social media, brands can connect directly with the end consumer and receive direct feedback.  Those that listen to the consumer will undoubtedly be the ones that succeed.

I believe the Old Spice  advertising campaign is a firm example of how future marketing and advertising platforms will be cross pollinated through social media engagement. If you haven’t seen it by now, Old Spice launched an ad campaign this February with former football player Isaiah Mustafa, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” Since the ads first hit, Mustafa has become a sensation on You Tube.  Just recently, a campaign on Twitter led to an avalanche of attention as tweets were turned into over 180 custom video ads on You Tube in a 24-hour period.

Simon Mainwaring in his latest business of social transformation blog posting writes extensively on how the campaign was a marketing success but not a technological breakthrough.  In the end, it was a success because Old Spice listened.

The Old Spice campaign was a wonderful demonstration of listening – just check out their Facebook page where Isiah answers questions personal questions via video. As I have said before, the future brand success will be determined by ‘the quality of listening’. In this case the personalized tweets by Old Spice not only showed the brand was listening but compelled the winterers to share the brand content again.

Whether you are Old Spice or a local business looking to connect with your customers, it is important that you listen to their needs and wants. If you’re a communications professional or agency and you want to keep your clients and win new business, it is essential that you listen as well.

Is anybody listening yet?

Tom Cosentino

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