Sept. 14 — Aaron Brown, Fahlgren Mortine

Scripps PRSSA was pleased to welcome Executive Vice President Aaron Brown from Fahlgren Mortine to speak virtually with us on Zoom. During the Monday meeting, Brown spoke briefly about Fahlgren Mortine, but focused his presentation on a skill we may not often consider: listening.

Fahlgren Mortine, Meaning and Precision, Making a Difference

First, Brown defined Fahlgren Mortine as an integrated communications company. He broke this down by defining “integrated,” meaning the firm offers PR and advertising, video, writing, research — a whole slew of services for their many clients. Some firms focus on one industry or segment, but Falghren Mortine covers many areas. Then, Brown described “communications” simply as people who are storytellers. One must be able to communicate to craft an effective and meaningful story on any channel, Brown said.

Brown offered some advice particularly for the underclassmen, but encouraged everyone to stop and think about what precisely matters to us individually. One must ask oneself “What do you want out of this organization?” It will help you decide what you do want to do, narrowing your focus for your future.

The importance of meaning and precision are evident in communications now more than ever. And, we are constantly bombarded with communication and messages! If something means nothing to us, we are likely to ignore that message. Precision refers to the efficacy of the communication: Are we delivering what they are asking for? Are we making things easy for them? 

Brown shared that these two words help him and his co-workers remain focused, fast, nimble and, ultimately, able to make a difference.


Brown has been writing a book centered on listening in the advertising and public relations realms, and he was curious if any executive conversations existed about listening. In 1957, a manufacturing executive said that listening is the weakest thing they do — and Brown says that most executives today would say the same.

“So why don’t we listen more? Because we are all absurdly worried about what we are going to say — we feel like we need to talk and fill in silence … many of us consider the absence of sound as an inadequacy,” Brown said. 

How can we change our framing of listening? First, Brown shares a few definitions listening:

1. To pay attention to sound
2. To hear something with thoughtful attention
3. To be alert to catch an expected sound

Individuals tend to struggle with two and three the most. Is there thoughtful attention going with your listening? For the third, are we setting up ourselves the opportunity to catch an expected sound?

“Part of being a communicator is hearing everything around you and arriving to a contextually appropriate message.”  

— Aaron Brown

Five Different Types of Listening

  • Focused listening: Who will you prioritize? When you prioritize a person, you must figure out how they tick! This helps you identify the mindsets of those involved. 
    • This helps you understand who you are talking to, making it more meaningful and precise. 
  • Digital cues: Where are people engaging? What is driving the most interest? Learn and adapt. 
  • Relentless listening: Listening is ongoing and relentless, but when you cannot just turn on your listening from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on a Scripps PRSSA meeting! Do you give yourself time to listen to silence? Do you listen to the news? Podcasts? The same friends? How do you get diverse messages, and are you only listening to certain things or people? 
  • Engaged listening: Are you listening close enough to know when to turn your chair? What does it take for you to turn your chair? Essentially, this phrase “turning the chair” refers to what peaks your interest.
    • This exercise helps us prioritize our inputs, helping us influence our mindsets and ultimately how we communicate. 
  • Demonstrated listening: Are you stopping to listen? Are you truly paying attention, and do your actions have depth? Did you observe and choose to engage in areas that you know are meaningful to you?
    • This type of listening helps you find your place in your voice because you listened, processed, and planned on how you act. If you cannot stop to listen, coming up with your thoughts becomes more tricky.

Likely Outcomes of Listening 

  • Data-informed decisions
  • Personalized experiences for others – adjusting to each unique experience, which has a profound effect for the individual(s) on the other end. When we feel an experience is unique to us, we are more likely to make better actions with which we had time to listen, think, and then act. 
  • A competitive advantage: If you can demonstrated you know how to listen and engaging on another level, you have a competitive advantage over others who lack this skill.

“We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” — Greek Philosopher Epictetus. 

Interested in interning with Fahlgren Mortine? Visit their website under “Career” and fill out a general application to be in the system, or you can go back and fill out a seasonal application when they are posted. 

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