Listening: The Foundation of Agile Engagement



Included in the June 2012 BIZ Builder Magazine Issue - Click to Read Online

Agile engagement starts with listening.

Content is the cornerstone of today’s communications strategies, but let’s face it – if the content is off the mark or isn’t seen by the intended audiences, your efforts were for naught.   That’s why we consider listening, targeting and distribution to be key fundamentals for a truly agile approach to communications.   Today, we’re going to dig into listening.  Listening is truly the foundation of agile engagement.


Here at PR Newswire, we use the term “Social Echo” to describe the way messages reverberate around (and in some cases are amplified by) our audiences. As messages enter the stream of conversations, they’re shared by people in networks, sparking other discussions.  I think we can all agree that social conversations can make or break brands and products. Buzz (positive or negative) is a powerful thing. But that’s not the only opportunity for communicators.

I monitor social channels for discussion about PR and social media. This screen lets me see popular subtopics within that broader discussion.

If we’re tuned into what our audiences are saying and what questions they’re asking, we should be able to influence the direction these conversations take. And, of course, “tuning in” really means listening.  But listening is a pretty broad term, so let’s break it down a bit.

First and foremost, it’s imperative that communicators understand what audiences are talking about, and what questions they ask. Doing so will enable you to communicate in their context.  Failing to do so means you run the risk of being the corporate equivalent of “that guy” with the demonstrated knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Identifying hot-button issues and recurring industry complaints is another important exercise. In addition to identifying opportunities for the brand to be the hero, doing this on an ongoing basis helps communicators either avoid risky areas or meet them head on and mitigate the risks, depending upon whatever is appropriate for the objective. It reduces surprise.

Listening will also reveal to you the language uses – the keywords and phrases they use when discussing you segment and services – enabling you to literally be on the same page, which also delivers search benefits.

Where to listen:

  • Twitter – in addition for specific mentions, keep an eye peeled for discussions around new and established hash tags for your sector.  Making lists of key influencers can make Twitter more manageable, as can a social media monitoring dashboard (I use our own PR Newswire Media Monitoring service).
  • Forums and discussion groups – Discussion groups on places like LinkedIn and Quora are fantastic focus groups to which you should pay attention.  You may also find discussion groups hosted by leading publications or industry groups.
  • Search engines – okay, it’s not truly listening per se, but paying attention to what results surface for the keywords your organization has selected is a good way to keep tabs on competitors, influencers and fast-moving issues in your space.

Read our new white paper, “Earned Media, Evolved,” discussing how the transformed media landscape presents new opportunities for communicators to earn media.


[author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Sarah Skerik @SarahSkerik

PR Newswire’s vp-social media.

I tweet & blog about digital PR, social media and search.(free ebook) [/author_info]