‘Have you tried listening?’

A reminder that sometimes, we need to step away from the dashboards and talk.

It's time to listen

We’re always looking for a new tool to make our lives easier. Social listening, analytics, sentiment analysis, media databases, and on. And these are invaluable resources for understanding the full breadth of our world and our impact, of telling data-driven stories and staying on the pulse of what matters.

But sometimes we need a reminder that not everything can be understood from a dashboard. This tweet stopped my scrolling in its simple reminder:

A social media manager is deeply immersed in your brand world’s day-to-day. A good one is constantly taking in all the conversation around your organization — good and bad — and internalizing it on the fly, whether to craft customer service responses or to better create messages, memes and more that resonate with your audience.

A dashboard is great for giving you at-a-glance data, a snapshot of performance and high-level sentiment. A social media manager who is reading hundreds and thousands of posts every day can give you the deep weeds analysis that can truly lead to new insights. They can identify the major pain points of your brand, the rallying points of pride, what makes customers give a referral and what makes them want to leave forever.



Yet often, social media managers are overlooked as a resource. They tend to be more entry-level employees, are disproportionately female and even in the year 2023 can be seen as doing “unserious” work.

But these workers are usually trained writers, thinkers and marketers who sit most closely to your customers — including those with the strongest feelings — on a day-to-day basis.

If you’re finding that your social media listening tool isn’t giving you the qualitative insights you need, or isn’t synthesizing them into a way that can help, have you bought your social media manager a cup of coffee lately and asked them what people are saying?

If not, it’s time you gave it a shot.

It goes beyond social media managers

This post reminds us that while tools have a valuable place in any comms pro’s arsenal, nothing really beats talking to actual humans. Depending on your product, that could be speaking to customers directly and getting their thoughts on what’s working and not working with your offering. It could be your customer service department, your front-desk staff or other positions that interact directly with your audiences.

All the reports and metrics and sentiment analysis can’t substitute for talking to people who live with your product day in, day out. The people that know why it’s fantastic and what messages you should most share to rally pride with existing customers and to grow your base to others.

Now, of course, you don’t want to rely on any one source to make sweeping decisions. Cover your bases. Get lots of different voices involved to help you find the harmony that will best tell your story in a way that’s truer and more authentic.

Technology is wonderful. People are magic.

None of this should be interpreted as a slight against measurement and analysis tools. But it is a reminder that even the best, smartest tool in the world needs a human to help interpret it. And in many cases, these tools need a human to augment it with lived experiences that may not show up on even the loveliest of dashboards.

Buy coffee for that social media manager. Bring doughnuts to your call center. Talk to people. You’ll be amazed at the messages you’re missing that can become a vital part of your communications strategy, if only we’re willing to listen.

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


One Response to “‘Have you tried listening?’”

    Ronald N Levy says:

    This is such a superb insight!

    Management thinks urgently about what can we DO, many in PR think about what can we get PAID, and this report wisely urges looking at a bigger question: what can we recognize as our PR PROBLEM?

    Paying attention to social media—and years ago paying attention to consumer mail, especially complaints in the often-windowless consumer mail room where few with power would tread—can give us a look at not only the public’s hopes and fears but also at common public errors and misconceptions.

    Can we do anything even better than getting accurate insight into our PR problem? Yes, we can PREVENT some problems a lot of PR damage by taking action early to (a) reduce PR troubles likely to arise, (b) detect as early as possible those that do arise, (c) create protective public attitudes before then,
    and (d) have enough damn money in the budget, like having pay-everything health insurance already in force, so we can respond to PR perils and opportunities almost immediately.

    That can accomplish more and cost less than trying to get urgently-needed budget from a management that may not then have time to give us prompt attention. Sometimes social media can give us solid evidence that more budget now may help us avert vastly more expense later.

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