Listening sessions. No one likes them. And unless people are pissed off, they will not attend. But, often an organization has no choice but to hold a listening session, invite the public and take careful notes. They are doable –and here are some tips to make them work as part of a smart marketing program:
1: Partner when possible. To get folks to come to your listening session, be sure to find an appropriate partner – they might not only be able to help with the right venue, but bring you access to people who have good input. Needless to say, it is ethically wrong to only have one group at a listening session - as that will impact the info you get, skewing results. But the right partners will be a huge help!
2: Actually listen; what is the point of a listening session if you don’t take careful notes and hear what is said. You may be called on to respond to the session, and show that you listened and made adjustments based on what the constituents had to say. Take careful notes, have a back up – and don’t try to lead and take notes – that will never work.
3: Post a follow-up- either with an e-newsletter, or a blog. A report is always helpful, even if it just breaks down info into simple blocks. A listening session without results and actions could be seen as window dressing.
4: Make sure the location is ADA accessible, and that you do everything you can to make everyone welcome – do you need PA system, a signer for the hearing impaired, is there a big screen for a PowerPoint? What about parking? The big details will work themselves out; the little ones will kill you.
5: Use social media. Newspaper ads are great for people who read newspapers – but well placed ads on social media will reach more people for a lot less.