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Lend me your ears: The importance of listening

27 Oct 2017

“Everybody’s talkin’ at me…” so goes the tune by Nilsson, a potent message that echoes the points raised by Professor Jim Macnamara at our recent event in Canberra. Jim’s talk was timed perfectly as it was also the International Day of Listening, setting the scene for what was a topic that tends to fall on deaf ears.

Jim argued the failure to listen and engage with the public, has contributed to a “democratic deficit”, the breakdown of public trust in Governments, public institutions and traditional media. This has in turn resulted in many major global events such as Brexit, the 2016 UK election result and the election of Donald Trump.

Jim undertook a two-year, three-country study of how and how well government, corporations and non-government organisations listen. He then spent the second half of last year inside the UK government examining how departments listen.

Unsuprisingly for most of the IABC Canberra audience, he found a “crisis of listening”. His key findings include that 80 to 95% of communication resources are focused on distributing messages i.e. speaking and that when organisations do listen it is instrumental, to achieve the organisations objectives.

Professor Macnamara’s top tips for how Government can increase listening and engagement:

  1. Use Social Research to inform evidence based policy and decision making.
  2. Consultation is a central platform for citizen engagement – but we have to do it better!
  3. Undertake content analysis of correspondence
  4. Analyse public complaints and do a better job of responding to complaints on social media
  5. Social media monitoring and analysis is a cost effective way of gaining insights and feedback. There are many good tools available e.g. Brandwatch.
  6. Effective stakeholder engagement allows stakeholders to influence decisions and it is two way. In Government it is too often communicating unilateral announcements.
  7. There is so much information about public attitudes, perceptions and concerns held in Government departments. We need greater data analysis, data sharing and knowledge sharing across Government.

If you missed the presentation or for further insights from Professor Jim Macnamara, visit: https://www.uts.edu.au/staff/jim.macnamara

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