Do any of us really HEAR what it is our clients want from us?
It’s a simple enough question, and Lord knows, we spend a lot of time talking to them about strategy, emailing them with concepts, and tele-conferencing about deliverables…but are we really HEARING what’s being said.
There’s a line in one particular Mike and The Mechanics song which says very poignantly ‘You can listen as well as you hear’. How true that is.
It’s curious that we in the world of communications know a lot (or should) about talking, positioning, articulating messaging, but it strikes me that no end of times we end up setting ourselves up for failure – if we miss the opportunity to both listen AND hear.
So often we marketing and PR types enter into dialogue with new or existing clients to gain project briefs or start exploring new options for strategy.
We’ll gather around the table, draw in all the right people, furiously pen notes and hope that by the time we leave we’ve enough wisdom and understanding to design exactly the right campaign.
But how do we know we’ve actually captured the true story?
How do we know we’ve gone beyond ‘hearing the noise’ at the surface level, and actually reached the point of having ‘listened to the heart’ of what the brand or boss is after?
Sometimes – and I know this from experience – a client will engage you because they think they’ve identified their core objectives and want you to meet those in double-quick time (with as little cost as possible please).
That might be about improving sales, recruiting better staff, making the competition nervous, getting a new brand out there….and all manner of relatively obvious reasons for marketing engagement.
But if we jump right in and engage ‘marketing mouth’ before our ‘empathetic and engaging ears’, we can miss some of the deepest most meaningful objectives.
I once completed a highly conversational hour’s meeting with a client, talking all about his company and the need to raise profile.
It was only when I went to leave, and I referenced his wife in a photo at the side of his desk, that he then opened up to reveal chapter and verse of how he desperately wanted to achieve a sooner-rather-than-later retirement with her, and was hopeful that PR would achieve him a better succession plan and find a buyer for the business.
In the moment that I had stopped being the singularly focused PR professional and engaged more of my empathetic human-self, I learned far more.
I’d listened AND I’d heard.
Of course, it isn’t just down to the consultant or agency to disseminate what the client requires. It’s as important as ever that they know how to brief and are honest about personal and professional motivations.
But, for those of us that are called into those all-important briefing meetings and have a tendency to start firing off ideas and talking strategy from the get-go, perhaps it’s worth remembering what your Mum always said:
You have two ears and one mouth. Use those ears wisely.