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Embracing the power of active listening

By Carrie Greene

25 November 2015

As a communications agency we understand the power of words and languauge to influence an audience and define a brand. So when a client comes to us looking for advice on how to better articulate their social purpose, we often start by looking at what it is that people are saying about them in the open and, often brutally honest, world of social media.

In particular, increasingly sophisticated online conversation anlaysis tools allow us to find out who, where and how any given issue or organisation is being discussed online and in real-time. This gives us an incredibly powerful insight in to attitutudes, awareness levels and key influencers, which can help inform an impactful communications strategy or brand redesign.

As a simple example of how this works, we looked at the conversation taking place online over the last year in the UK around the topic of corporate charity partnerships. A recent study by the Forster Activation team in to the relationships between charities and corporate partners highlighted cultural and logistical differences between the charity and business sectors that created a perceived barrier to effective partnerships. The emphasis on financial return was identified as being particularly limiting to long term partnerhsips.

However, analysis of the online conversation around corporate charity partnerships shows that there is infact a good public understanding of the varied benefits of an effective partnership. The below Word Cloud illustrates the key words used in relation to the topic search “charity corporate partnerships” and, whilst the terms ‘money’ and ‘sponsors’ do appear, they are given less prominance than words such as ‘support’, ‘help’, ‘community’ and ‘time’. This suggests that people are not only aware that there is more to a successful partnership than cash in the bank, but that they are openly discussing the potential benefits to society.

Although the Word Cloud gives a fairly limited snapshot of conversation around the topic, used in conjunction with other forms of audience and stakeholder research, it can help to build a picture of the type of language that is being used to describe an issue or brand. Perhaps more importantly it can highlight the differences between the way an organisation perceives itself and the way it is perceived and discussed by others.

Whilst we love a good natter here at Forster, these types of insights help remind us that for every hour we spend talking about a campaign brief, we should be spending double that listening. Listening to the views of the people who will ulitmately make each project we work on a success or failure – you.

Word Cloud created using Sysomos Map
Word Cloud created using Sysomos Map