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?
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.