At an industry conference last week, a well-respected communications exec was sharing with me that she is on a “listening campaign” this month and it has been quite fantastic the things she’s learning about her brand, customers and competitors. As she was telling me this, she was looking over my shoulder for the next person to talk to. We all have been the victim of the “over the shoulder” networker, the person who is looking for the next, better conversation after getting bored by you. Heck, we might even be guilty of that action every now and then. The irony, of course, is that this “listening campaigner” wasn’t listening to our current conversation. Which brings me to one of the “actions du jour”: listening campaigns.
At first I thought this was a brilliant concept – that you go on the road (virtually or figuratively) and just listen to what’s being said about your company, or your industry, or a particular person. Talk less, listen more. Don’t judge. Don’t budge from pricking your ear and taking it all in. Thousands of people are doing “listening campaigns” as you read this blog post. Are listening campaigns actually hurting our ability to listen all the time? To know when to let others rule the conversation and to be a fly on the wall? To be in the moment and concentrate on your audience? The original intent of listening campaigns is a good one, but our inability to concentrate, our excellent multitasking skills and our innate fear of missing out make listening campaigns (emphasis on “campaigns”) a potentially useless exercise.
Why segregate this activity? Shouldn’t you always be listening, monitoring and learning in your markets? By being so deliberate are you avoiding important conversations taking place right in front of you? So, back to this person who wasn’t listening to me, and because I was just short enough she could longingly peer over my shoulders: I had approached her because I wanted to give her a business card of someone who wanted her counsel. If she had only made me part of her listening campaign she would have gotten some new business. Maybe she still will – holding a grudge is as ugly as not listening.
(What’s your take on listening campaigns? Would love to hear your viewpoint.)
– Diane Schwartz
On Twitter: @dianeschwartz