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Listening (And Hearing) Crucial In Communication Plans

After more than 30 years in public relations, I have seen a lot of change in our profession. As you might imagine, it’s especially noticeable in technology. What hasn’t changed is the need to be smart and strategic in order to be most effective. If you haven’t completely defined your problem, how can you know what to do to solve it?Kids listening

It used to be that most research was fairly formal in that a study was done, a focus group conducted, etc. While these tools gave us valuable information, and still do today, there’s a lot more we can do to receive timely data. A big part of what I do is listening to and for clients. It’s about hearing what they are saying, and understanding what’s being said about them. A few ideas on places to begin listening:

  • Set Google Alerts for the topics you care about.
  • Subscribe to RSS feeds for people covering (blogs or traditional media) your topics.
  • Set up a twitter search for the key words or hashtags you want to learn more about.
  • Check twellow to find the influencers on Twitter in a specific geographic area.
  • See if your industry has a Klout topic or influencers listed for your industry.

These are just a few of free tools that help you listen. There are many, many more you can find just by Googling “listening tools.” You may have to tweak your search terms to make sure you’re capturing the conversations.

To make sure you’re searching the right terms and listening where your customers are, do some of your own research. Have your customer service team ask those with whom they interact what sites they read and use? If you do a quarterly awareness study, include questions to find out where people are getting information pertaining to your industry or business.

Who influences the conversations has also changed considerably with the advent of blogging, Twitter and other social tools. It used to be influencers were titans of industry and community leaders. But today they are no longer just the people with reach, but the people who have influence over the people with reach.

Are there other ways you listen? Tools you use that others can easily access?

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss ways to join the discussion. Trust me. It’s not as scary as it may seem.

Part 2: Now That You Know What’s Being Said, Join the Conversation

Part 3: Successful PR Plans are a balance new and old tools and tactics

Part 4: Reach Out and Engage Someone 



By |2018-03-18T22:50:43+00:00November 16th, 2011|Strategic Communications Planning/Counsel|4 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. lanalavigne @ rush card pro November 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Listening for me, is more important that hearing…Listening is a lot more meaningful than hearing, right??

    • mdbarber November 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      I don’t really think so. If I listen to you, but I don’t hear what you’re saying, I really haven’t learned much. But, if I hear what you’re saying I can change things and create communication programs that will be more meaningful to you.

  2. Shonali November 18, 2011 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have Google Alerts set up these days, though of course you can do that with most (any?) search engines. I personally really like RowFeeder specifically for Twitter and Facebook searches and let’s not forget the ability to search by hashtag or phrase on Twitter. So much good stuff out there, we just have to look – and listen – for it!

    • mdbarber November 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm - Reply

      @Shonali Thanks for the suggestion regarding Rowfeeder. What I really like about today’s world is the idea and tip sharing that happens in so many blogs. Thanks so much for always sharing.

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