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In our social media age of sharing – and over-sharing – it can sometimes feel as though communication has become a one-way street. In the corporate environment too, as businesses start to use a range of platforms and tools to share information with stakeholders, the temptation can be to keep churning out the content with little thought to how much of it is being well-received by recipients. However, the art of effective and profitable corporate communications is rooted in listening.

Only by truly understanding your audience, their needs and their opinions, can you create solutions which will resonate. Whether that leads to designing better products and services, operating more efficiently, retaining your staff for longer or innovating to meet emerging needs, listening is arguably one of the most profitable ways to build your business. Despite this, many organisations have little or no corporate listening capability or rely on gut feel or long-held views which are often way off the mark.

The good news is that there are a number of ways to incorporate listening into your communications programme, both internally and externally.  Tried and tested methods include focus groups, surveys, interviews and feedback forums, but many of these are small-scale solutions or require considerable investment to scale up.

How to listen effectively

Before you embark on your corporate listening project, it’s important to think carefully about what you want to achieve.  It is a good idea to segment your audience and decide which groups of stakeholders to focus on first – don’t try to tackle everything at once or you’ll end up with a cacophony of data rather than a set of clear indicators. Think too about which areas to prioritise; don’t ask for views on all aspects of your organisation but rather hone in on particular themes and drill down for really valuable insights.

The next thing to consider is the best method of reaching people. You need to find the right feedback format to engage your audience, ensuring that it is easy and convenient for them to access. It should also be timely – both available to them at the right moment and also not take too long to complete.  At all stages of your listening programme, the key is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ensure that they really feel the system is designed around them, otherwise you risk being ignored.

Choosing the right tool

Taking into account all these requirements, perhaps the best and most cost-effective tool available now for corporate listening is an app. Whether you want to gather the views of employees, customers, suppliers or all three, an interactive app available on smartphone and tablet is a great way to gather insights. As Communicator App exemplifies, an app can also serve several purposes, combining listening tools with sharing tools, acting as the perfect two-way communications vehicle for your company.

Using surveys and opinion polls, creating spaces for sharing ideas and making suggestions, and encouraging feedback from users, apps are available at the swipe of a thumb whenever and wherever your audience is. This kind of real-time listening is invaluable for helping organisations spot opportunities as well as flagging up problems, enabling you to take swift action. Since the listening tools are integrated with the sharing aspects of the app, you can also react quickly with your content, sending out news and information which directly answers the queries of your audience. This in turn is clear evidence to your audience that you are not just listening to them, but also responding to their needs.

And this is really the crux of the matter. Corporate listening is only valuable and effective if it leads to change and improvement. If your stakeholders feel they are shouting into an abyss rather than whispering in your ear, they will quickly disengage from the process and all your efforts will be in vain.

If you’d like to know how Communicator can help your organisation be a better listener, contact us.

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