Take the time to listen

Kim V Goldsmith ABC Rural Reporter
Working Dubbo saleyards as a Rural Reporter, 1995

I come from a long line of story-tellers – on both sides of the family. It’s not something I consciously thought of being or doing until I became a journalist 30 years ago, when I realised the power in the ability to ask questions and listen, before sharing the story.

My other half often jokes it can take two hours to walk the three blocks of the main street with me on some days, as I stop to yarn with people along the way. I think it’s pretty amazing I can even do that in a regional city growing at the rate of Dubbo – particularly given I grew up in a tiny town where I was related to half those walking down the main street.

There’s a story in every meeting.

Without a doubt, everyone has a story or knowledge to share. I’ve learned about people, places and things I never would have if I hadn’t had those conversations in passing.

I’ve spent the last few months travelling around the region for clients – a variety of jobs requiring me to make connections, asking questions, determining where and what the stories are, then documenting them – in words, photos and on video. While it often leads to face-to-face contact, there’s usually a need for me to create online content around those interactions.

Kim V Goldsmith video producer
On the road producing a video in the Narromine/Trangie area with camera operator, Peter Aland, 2017

Every conversation is a revelation…or almost every conversation. Every story shared creates a connection, a relationship with another individual that you may or may not come back to, but builds on past connections and lays the foundation for future ones.

People are at the centre of all I do.

In our digital world, where we’re often removed from much face-to-face contact there’s little opportunity to really listen to what people are saying; we often only get half the story at best. In some cases, people respond before they get past the headline.

Kim V Goldsmith project manager
Interviewing residents of Kandos, Coming of Age Project, 2014

Sometimes as communicators, we need to take charge and ask questions of the people we care about in our communities – professionally and personally. We really don’t have permission to tell our story before we’ve listened to others, asking questions along the way.

There’s also opportunity in this approach that can result in others sharing your story because they feel part of it.

So, if you’re frustrated with a lack of real engagement with what you’re doing and what you might perceive as poor performing online content, think about putting people back at the centre of the model. Take the time to listen and you might be surprised.

Need a hand to tell the story of your community? Connect with me about what the options might be for your business or organisation.

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