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Are you ready for ‘sense and respond’?

I love the film “Minority Report”, in which Tom Cruise plays a wanted criminal who gets his eyeballs replaced to escape police arrest. You may recall the scene in which he walks into a shopping mall, where his new eyes are scanned by an in-store camera. The hologram of woman shop assistant then exclaims, “Hello, Mr. Yakamoto! Welcome back to the Gap! How did those assorted tank tops work out for you?”

This 2002 Spielberg classic was foretelling what’s become a fast-growing approach to communications and marketing – called Sense and Respond.

So what is it? Ron Shevlin, the author of “Everything They’ve Told You About Marketing Is Wrong” described Sense and Respond as “understanding the context of the inbound interaction to ensure relevant responses, and the ability to draw upon and analyze customer data to improve the firm’s ability to sense the context of the interaction.” Put simply, it means understanding what your audience is doing and saying about you and then being organised to respond in a targeted way. Whether you are trying to sell tank tops or communicate your company’s corporate responsibility message – social media now gives you the data and the tools to listen and engage.

The early web followed the traditional ‘one-to-many’ media model. Most organisations created brochure style websites or merely digitised existing printed material. In place of broadcasting uniform messages to a wide audience in an indiscriminate fashion, sense and respond attempts to pinpoint the right individual with the right message—or, product or service.

Listening to what social media users (in general) and key influencers (in particular) are saying about your company is the first and necessary step towards a successful digital strategy.

The point about influence is key. Social media monitoring tools are ubiquitous but the challenge is to weed out the important stuff from the torrent of tweets, posts, feeds, emails, spam and general nonsense that comes your way. Filtering out the significant voices from the background noise and then choosing when and how to respond, is vital.

More and more, we are advising clients to focus their monitoring efforts on the key influencers in their sector and around the issues that are most important to them.

In fact, we at Portland are working with our colleagues at Tweetminster on a new technique that goes way beyond traditional metrics such as ‘likes’ or numbers of followers and  gets to the heart of influence. It will be a step change in terms of allowing targeted communications and will bring the principles of ‘Sense and Respond’ to the corporate reputation world.

We will have more to say on this in the next few weeks.

Written By

Mark Flanagan