The Importance Of Listening In Brand Building

We love to talk. We raise our voices to be heard. We put out information with a fervent hope that it rises above the noise—above our competitors, even industry peers. One major metric public relations (PR) professionals love to brandish about is share of voice (SOV).

Simply put, SOV is the percentage of all content and conversations about your brand or company compared to those of our competitors. And the most likely answer why PR professionals use this metric is “brand awareness.”

Unfortunately, SOV does not necessarily translate to brand awareness.

Most certainly, customers cannot completely confirm that their patronage for brands or support for a company rests on “referenced” material in various platforms. To measure brand awareness, affinity and patronage, companies and brand need to dig a little dipper.

For one, understanding and knowing what shapes brand or company perception has become imperative these days. And the road to improve perception with the end goal of increasing affinity and patronage begins with listening to your customers.

Today more than ever, customer opinion is more influential in building brands that last. Thus, if we want to know how to increase brand perception, we first need to understand what those opinions are. What do customers believe the brand represents? What is their view of its products and services? How does this perception compare with competing brands and the wider market?

Just a quick reminder, brand perception is owned by customers, not brands. Regardless of our message, whatever people are thinking and saying about our brand, that is our brand.

Social listening

For well-meaning and passionate PR and marketing professionals, they tap several methods in determining these perceptions—either through sur­­veys and focus groups, which have become part of the overall strategy in measuring and improving brand perception.

Given the omnipresence of digital channels and social media platforms, one of the easiest ways to research what people are saying about our brands is to use social listening tools to find relevant brand mentions within the billions of online conversations.

Because conversations in social networking sites can ea­sily be traced, PR professionals and marketers can immediately start from almost a zero base and quickly build a comprehensive picture of brand realities.

Some questions come to mind that will help us check if our brand is strong enough to give us the internal and external value that we need. We can ask ourselves the following:

  • How is my brand relating to my target audience(s)? Are they instantly “getting it” without too much thought?
  • Do my customers appreciate the uniqueness of our offering and how important is our brand to them?
  • Can my customers connect our brand promise to their actual experience?
  • Do my customers understand the values that our want to represent to them?

By analyzing and evaluating social conversations, we can better understand what aspects, issues, information, conversations are contributing to our current brand perception. The insights generated can then be used to help craft or recalibrate brand communication and PR plans.

And, fortunately, there is a number in the market that can help us conduct social listening activity—enabling us to measure the sentiment around our brand, products and campaigns. Through social listening, we can also evaluate conversations and information with negative slants and help us identify various customer issues that could be harming our brand per­ception.

By looking at these metrics, we can work out what cau­ses spikes in the conversations around our brand and how perception changes over time. Admittedly, brands do not exist in isolation. Measuring the brand perception of our competitors can help us understand where our strengths and weaknesses lie.

Customer profiling

Customer profiling—kno­wing our customers, things like their general age, gender, location, language, professions and interests­­—is vital when considering what shapes our brand perception.

It’s not just about what people are saying, but who is saying it. Every person’s experience of your brand will be different, but there may be some common themes that social listening can uncover. Fortunately, information collected from social listening comes fully hydrated with data that will tell you more about the people behind the conversations.

Once we have worked out our customers’ perception of our brand, and we know some more about what makes those customers tick including who they are, we can now act on our findings.

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