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01.22.10 03:47 PM

Guest Blog Bob Barocci, ARF President: Why Is Listening So Scary?

Most marketing people “listen” to organic, naturally occurring online conversation because if they don’t, some boss is likely to criticize them.  Or, they are afraid that when they look in the mirror, they see someone that is “out-of-it." So, what do marketers and agencies do? They put “listening” on their to-do list. And then, they go off and do some listening. Good. It’s a start.

But....the problem begins here because there are so many easy ways to get “listening” checked off your list without really taking the opportunity seriously. All one needs to do is check out Google Trends, or talk to Nielsen BuzzMetrics or TNS Cymfony about sentiment, set up a community or two, or get IT involved looking into Clarabridge or Lexalytics.

But is this “listening”? Is this consistent with the unprecedented opportunity to hear your customers talk honestly about your brand? Or, recognizing, as Chris Brogan said recently, that “Twitter is free mind-reading!”? I think not.

The ARF convened a Listening Workshop in New York City in November, 2009. Listening is exploding, right? Well, it is, if you consider all those “check-list” projects listening.

The disturbing thing to me about the talk at this event was that many speakers were preoccupied with the obstacles to effective listening –“no budget…nobody in charge…where is the statistical rigor?... is it projectable?... tough organizational issues… hard to sell internally…ROI tough to determine…legal has major issues....etc.

So, what’s up with this? True listening is scary, that’s what’s up. It’s a big change from our traditional way of thinking.

So, the single biggest opportunity in the history of consumer marketing lays dormant. The singular opportunity to tap into the brain of today’s newly empowered consumer in such a natural way that what we hear is the purest “research” ever is buried in nay-saying.

The purposes of the ARF Listening Playbook and our January 28 San Francisco Industry Leader Forum – Putting Listening to Work -  are to change that. To get you so excited about the promise of listening, the essentialness of listening, the unequaled power of the insight potential of listening that you will not go another day without taking your important first step.

That little first step? – implement a continuous, 24/7, listening program in your company tomorrow.  Not project listening...that’s checklist stuff. Welcome to a new world.

In September, 2004, Bob Barocci was named President/CEO of The ARF.  Just prior to joining the ARF, Bob was the director of communications of New School University and part of Bob Kerrey’s leadership team. Before that, Bob, as he says it, was privileged to enjoy a very satisfying advertising career including 21 years with Leo Burnett culminating in the position of President of Leo Burnett International.  After he left Leo Burnett, he was founder/CEO of McConnaughy Barocci Brown and then invited by Alex Kroll to become Director of Central/East Europe for Young and Rubicam.  He holds an M.B.A. from Harvard University and a Phi Beta Kappa mathematics degree from the University of Wisconsin.



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