Are You Really Listening?

June 24, 2016


What do Anna Wintour and Will Smith have in common?

They both share the view that unless you invest in authentic engagement and influence, your story may fall on deaf ears.

In a world where everything moves quickly and access to information has been exacerbated by the revolution of data and social, audiences have become distracted. Yet therein lies the opportunity. People are sharing exactly what they want to hear and where they want to hear it, all while being discerning about how they react or if they engage.

At this years’ Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, authentic engagement was particularly high on the agenda. While content and storytelling continue to be drivers, what is becoming clear is that action should echo content.

Will Smith spoke about taking time to really listen to what your audience is saying, and then responding and engaging in a way that makes sense to them. He illustrated this by referencing a story about his daughter while on tour for her latest album. After a handful of performances during a three-week tour, she had asked to go home on several occasions, which ultimately was not part of the ‘strategy.’ Her final request, “Are you listening to me, Dad?” was met with a nod and affirmation that he was indeed listening. The next morning when it was time to head out for the next performance, Willow Smith walked down with a clean shaven head. The number one single off the Willow’s album? Whip My Hair.

So often we interpret our audiences’ needs and wants from our own point of view when our responsibility as communicators is to listen carefully and tell relatable stories that, in turn, are echoed through the actions of the brand.

Anna Wintour said to take time to think about the readers’ lives and to put yourself in their shoes. This should provide a clear path on how to influence and capture their attention. The result: good work that is ultimately good business. Wintour referenced James Corden, and how his success is as a result of him making his work personal and engaging with his audience in a way that is authentic to him.

Storytellers like Anna Wintour and Will Smith paint a rich tapestry about how their audiences drive, inspire and provide unique patterns on how to engage with them.

Similarly, brands who will win are those who can bridge the divide between the message they want to communicate and the story their audiences want to hear.