Monday, September 14, 2009

Trying Desperately to Listen

Hello and welcome back. I took large chunks of the summer off (hence the sllence); I hope you also had a chance to decompress, spend time with your family or whatever it is that makes you feel rejuvenated and ready to get back in the game.

In keeping with the generalist approach of this blog, I'd like to spend a few blog entries in the coming months talking about the folks we used to call 'audiences.' You know, the supposed recipients of our communications and the people who sometimes have genuine conversations with us. I'm going to start with some thoughts on audience understanding.

Hey Ray

Here's Ray Kerins.

He's most famous for asking the pharmaceutical industry a very pointed question: "How in the hell do we have such a bad reputation?" (I'll answer that in a future post... with some glee and schadenfreude) and for his re-organization of the communications and PR functions at Pfizer. As VP of Worldwide Communications for the world's largest drug company
($71 billion in revenue, 137,000 employees) he is naturally very interested in understanding his audiences.

All that is great but what really interests me is what he said at a recent Social Communications & Healthcare conference.

"The whole issue of listening is something we are trying desperately to do."

Trying desperately to listen. I confess to being a little spooked by this as it suggests a certain degree of panic. After all, the roots of the word 'desperate' mean 'lack of hope.' I hope that's not what he meant but I think truthfully many large organizations - from Fortune 500 multinationals to governments, are indeed engaged in a desperate attempt to figure out what is actually going on 'out there' in the minds and behaviours of their various constituencies.

So I set myself the challenge in coming blogs to answer the question: how do we try desperately to listen and succeed at the task? Often we get bogged down in the mechanics of so-called audience understanding - the how-tos of focus groups, quantitative data analysis, etc., etc. So how do we let the authentic voices of our audiences come through? I'll be talking to public opinion researchers, in-the-field communications folks and even a few eggheads like anthropologists to see how we can actually get (more than) a few bursts of insight into our audiences.

Next up... On the Virtues of Lurking.


And, in the spirit of listening, if there's something you want me to yammer on about just drop me a line at mcivor at RosettaPR (.) com

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