Transitioning from a full-time job to overseeing Mission Driven PR, Inc., a company empowering and inspiring nonprofit executives in communications and public relations, hasn’t been an easy decision. I’ve been working on Nonprofit PR Academy, the company’s courses for some time, while working full time and teaching at the university. Yet I listened to what my 15-year-old son asked me, “What makes you happy?” I said that teaching makes me happy, so he replied, “Do what makes you happy.” I am listening to him and my heart. When I ask my students why they want to get into public relations, they say they like to talk, so figured it was a field suited for them. I remind them that an important role of the public relations professional is to listen. Some find it surprising, others don’t. Wilbur Schramm, a mass communications scholar, said, “Listening is a powerful tool.” Listening is underrated.
Here are three benefits of this important tool in research:
Informs management of what is trending, best practices, and how to improve experiences. Listening can be done through environmental scanning online, in the workplace, and in various audits. When you take the time to conduct environmental scanning in your research, you influence management decisions. This information conducted at the initial stage of planning and programming can alter the direction for how to align with and deliver the promises of your nonprofit’s mission.
Gives you insight into what your employees, clients, donors and volunteers are thinking, feeling, and doing. Surveys are used to gauge how employers are doing in various areas of the workplace. Based on specific questions to uncover information, employers encourage their employees to complete the surveys. The same is done for stakeholder surveys.
Yet how often are surveys conducted and what information is used to improve the workplace or stakeholder experience? One thing is listening for how things can improve for employees and other stakeholders, and another thing is actually generating measurable objectives with activities and implementing them to deliver results on improving situations and experiences.
Recognizes employees and clients for their input. Asking what employees and clients or other stakeholders think shows you care about them and value their feedback. Oftentimes we overlook this simple gesture to thank individuals for their feedback. In addition, we may not circle back and give examples on how their input has been implemented. Finding ways to demonstrate how their feedback was used creates an empowering environment for your stakeholders and shows what is valued in the organization.\
Listening is a simple, yet powerful tool that garners much return on your investment. Listening can be the difference in retaining employees, transforming clients, and making lifelong donors and volunteers. Or in my case, listening is the difference in creating a happy and fulfilled life.