Three Big Advantages of Active Listening in PR
Despite our namesake, Largemouth Communications, it’s in our ability to act as strategic listeners that really helps us serve as effective PR counselors. One of many great lessons I’ve learned in this art came from a senior colleague here a couple years ago as we found ourselves in a tough spot– a new client came to us fuming over a negative message board posting they’d discovered in a target market.
Abruptly finding myself in a heated moment, I panicked in my head at the time trying to find the right thing to say and immediately alleviate their concerns about this issue. Meanwhile, as my colleague waited calmly for our client to finish voicing their frustrations, I took her lead and discovered more on the benefits of practicing patient, proactive listening through the process:
- Identifying the challenge – You can’t pose an effective solution to something if you don’t truly understand the problem. While it appeared my client’s frustrations were aimed at the source of the negative comments, it became clear as the conversation unfolded that at the heart of the issue was the negative exposure it gave them in an important market. Recognizing the true problem helped us better understand how we could serve the client through our PR efforts.
- Avoiding roadblocks – It’s natural sometimes, especially in the middle of a perceived crisis, to want to act first and reflect later. In this instance, by asking questions and gathering plenty of information before making any hasty proclamations, we were able to avoid some major pitfalls. If we’d acted too impulsively, we might have agreed to a project too far outside our scope of work or something that simply wasn’t in line with our client’s overall objectives. Avoiding this served to benefit both our agency and the client.
- The master plan – By gathering the facts and being patient, we were able to come up with a solution that made perfect sense for the client in this situation. A proactive local media relations campaign would allow us to take control over the narrative and bring to light more positive messages through outlets in the affected market. Delivering on the larger challenge at hand, this targeted media outreach strategy would help to counteract the negative posts and inform the market through earned media channels.
The PR landscape is often called fast-paced, which is true as we must think and act quickly at times to serve our client’s needs – especially when unforeseen situations arise. But, as the scenario above proved to me, cooler heads truly can prevail with an attentive and patient ear. It’s an important skill and one that we PR professionals can hone much to the benefit of the clients we serve.