Getting Audience Feedback Still Effective After All These Years

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I learned Sunday that asking your audience what they want to see or read did not start in 2015. An excellent new documentary, Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, shows a clip where famed TV host Ed Sullivan asks his audience—on the air—to write in if they want him to book "that great Swedish star" as a guest.

Bergman had gone through a well-publicized affair with director Roberto Rossellini, which included having a child, after which she did not work in Hollywood for many years. Sensing the importance of the story, Sullivan visited Bergman on the London set for her comeback film, the hugely hyped Anastasia, which would result in her second academy award.

"I know that she's a controversial figure," he said in that 1956 TV clip. "So it's entirely up to you...I think a lot of you think...she's had ... years of time for penance."

Apparently, he received several thousand letters and by about a two-thirds majority, people thought that it was time to forgive her. But I don't think he ever booked her. Maybe listening to your audience—not asking—is the modern revelation.

I thought of this again this morning listening to National Public Radio. They had a health feature on women freezing their eggs, and that led to a promo for their new Shots health news site. (They are doing transcripts for every radio story now; remember, Google doesn't know how to read a video, so this is a great SEO idea.)

This graph followed: "Morning Edition asked listeners to send their questions about women's bodies and aging as part of our ongoing series Changing Lives of Women. We heard from hundreds of you asking about everything from sleeplessness to STDs to sex in old age." Talk about getting good content—and feedback for more good content!

Yesterday, I wrote about insideARM's Compliance Professionals Forum. Their members covet in-person events but aren't driving more than an hour to attend them. Liz Slovenkay, the membership director, spoke how through more outreach they are now learning what events their members will attend. They will make some changes accordingly.

On SIPA member Staten Island Parent's Facebook page, I read this: "The Staten Island Mall has just announced they will be hosting a Holiday Celebration in December after all, responding to the disappointment expressed by some Staten Islanders in their previous decision to skip this year's festivities. We have updated the Tree Lighting section on our website with the details of the event." The mall listened and acted.

Of course, Ed Sullivan didn't have social media to gauge his audience's opinion back then. (Maybe he still wouldn't have listened.)

In a BIMS session on upselling and cross-selling, Robert Carter, vice president, marketing, Soundview, said that, "On the corporate side we're trying to develop products quickly. [But we] should do more research with our customers about what they want."

"Listen to your customers and give them what they want," said Adam Goldstein, publisher of Business Management Daily (BMD), at the final BIMS best of the best session. (He also declared himself a "perennial" following the millennial-focused keynote there.) I like the poll that BMD runs on their website. Today's is "Are you responsible for planning your company's holiday party?" (Their audiences include HR and administrative people.) When you vote, it takes you to the results.

Parking Panda, one of the four Models of Excellence featured at BIMS, also believes in asking what customers think. Their goal is to get every customer to review his or her experience. "We constantly solicit feedback," said CEO Nick Miller. "It's crucial for us and we've been very pleased with the results."

"As a startup, we're agile and can push new features every day," Miller said. "Our data allows us to use metrics to constantly drive improvements. We can watch numbers every day. If it works, we can push it out more; if it doesn't, we can tweak it and figure out how it will work."

I don't need any feedback to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…