Listening Builds Trust in a Time of Uncertainty

I’m always listening.

As a writer and music producer, I’ve spent years working in studios, training my ears to pick out an instrument or a voice in the crowd, finding the perfect blend, and exploring ways to transform the most mundane of sounds into something interesting and transcendent.

As an academic, I’ve explored the science of sound: the ways that sound shapes our behavior and our perception; how we can manipulate our taste buds with our earbuds; how music and soundscapes can impact healthcare settings; and how sonic interventions can contribute to a better world.

As a sonic strategist, I’ve used my knowledge and experience to blend sound science and sound art into frameworks that help our clients make sound choices, enabling them to harness the power of sound while measuring its impact and effectiveness.

Listening forges connections

Call it an occupational hazard (or a benefit), but I’m attuned to the sound of the world around me. It’s a world that sounds significantly different to my ears than it did a year ago, before a pandemic, protests and politics transformed the soundscapes of my life.

I no longer hear the laughter of my colleagues at their desks, or conference rooms alive with people trading stories, sharing wins and losses, and exploring creative solutions to complex problems. Instead, I hear voices delivered through a wireless earbud directly into my ear. Clients, partners and friends are reduced to so many talking heads on a screen. The information is there, but the energy? Not so much.

The reality is, most organizations are more concerned with their outputs than their inputs—making listening a bit of a lost art.

Gone is the familiar hum of the city and the subways, the retail soundscapes, the din of diners and airport announcements. Now my sonic landscape is composed mainly of sounds within earshot of my apartment, the voice of my beloved singing along to music only she can hear, and the drone of the ever-present news in the background.

The truth is, the world sounds different because it is different. We’ve sheltered in place, we’ve marched in the streets, we’ve mumbled through masks and we’ve screamed at our screens.  When experienced in unfamiliar contexts, even familiar sounds and voices can take on new meaning, evoking different memories and triggering unexpected emotional responses.

As I continue to navigate this uncharted territory, I’ve thought about what it means to “listen in,” to focus on conversations more intentionally, to be more aware of the nuances of the soundscapes around me, and to recognize how things sometimes feel out of place because they sound out of place. It can be confusing and challenging, not only personally, but professionally as well.

Are you tuned in to your customers?

I’m always listening, but now the question is: are you?

The reality is, most organizations are more concerned with their outputs than their inputs—making listening a bit of a lost art. Imagine, responding to a friend without taking the time to actually understand what they’re saying first. The same goes for your consumers. Creating a message without considering the wants and needs of customers can achieve the opposite of your goal, and can come off quite insensitive and uninspired.

Conversations are a two-way street; even between brands and consumers. Marketers know that people’s needs and behaviors have shifted dramatically, and will continue to do so over this next year. Online shopping is at its peak, new brand discovery is on the rise and content is more popular than ever. In fact, starting from a place of listening can improve brand trust and ad recall. Which is why it’s the first and most important step to creating a sonic strategy.

Because the secret to being heard, is listening.