You’ve reached step one in the PR process and landed yourself a new client—great! The relationship between client and PR pro is give and take. Not only should they be grilling you with a bunch of questions, you too need to be ready with some of your own. In order for you to do the best job possible for your client and be considered a success, you need to ask some key questions.
1. What makes your product or your company different from your competitors?
One of the main goals of anyone working in PR is getting as much media coverage as possible for your client. This will of course lead to more sales, establishing those in the firm as thought leaders, and putting them top of mind for potential customers and media. This question is crucial as it will determine how you reach out to journalists and get them interested in why your client, above all others, is the leader in their field. You need to help direct your client and pull the information from them that you will use to differentiate their product or service from that of their competitors.
Competition will be fierce in just about any industry. Doing your due diligence on competitors and their strategies will help in giving your client a cutting edge. Learn from their mistakes and don’t make the same ones. Glean inspiration from their successes without being a copycat.
2. Who are the decision makers and what is the approval process?
The adage “Too many cooks in the kitchen” becomes apt when looking for approval on, say, a blog post that needs publishing. If you send it to every executive in the firm for feedback, you risk spending a ton of time on perhaps unnecessary edits. Too much feedback from too many people will lead to mass confusion, and might see you throwing your well planned timeline into the trash.
Talk to your client about the process and who should be involved. Set expectations on how you would like to receive feedback.
3. What are your business’s pain points?
Nobody is perfect and neither is your client. It may be a difficult question to ask, or to answer, but pinpointing the common concerns or complaints they receive from customers can go a long way to building and maintaining a strong brand. Find out as much as you can about their pain points and how they respond to them. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know it exists.
4. Who are we trying to reach?
Determining your client’s demographic is key to their – and your – success. Before you get started on anything, you need to know whom to target. If you’re going to be creating compelling content for your client, you simply must understand whom you will be speaking to and how best to get that message out. If you’re appealing to baby boomers, you may want to consider a more traditional approach, but if you want to reach a millennial audience, an intense social media strategy will be in your future.
5. What are your expectations?
We’ve all been sitting across a boardroom table from a client who has unrealistic expectations. Best to get the air cleared right off the get-go and make it clear to them that their product or service may not be worthy of a front page story in The New York Times. Dreaming big is a good thing, but realism is more often than not what’s called for. Your job is to temper their expectations without completely bursting their bubble.
On the contrary, you may be able to school them in other ways they can flourish in the media and bring some insight into the process for them. They may not understand the value of social media or creating an interesting corporate newsletter or writing compelling blog pieces for their website, but you might not ever have that conversation if you don’t first ask them about their expectations.
6. What is the budget?
Nobody, especially a client, wants to divulge what exactly they are willing to spend, for fear that you will take their money and run! The reality is that the size of the budget will determine how quickly goals can be reached and how you can best tailor your campaign. Without a dollar figure, agency professionals are left only with assumptions, and we all know where that can end up. Take the guess work out of the process and get the numbers down on paper.
7. What are the deadlines?
Every project has a deadline—thank goodness! Even if the deadline is not written in stone like it would be for a specific event, meeting, or campaign, create a plan with your client in advance, one that matches their internal timelines. If there is a sense of urgency, you need to know about it beforehand.
8. What would you consider a success or what is the goal?
As a PR pro, you need to pick your client’s proverbial brain and find out what it is they really want to achieve. Do they simply want to increase visibility? Is there an expectation for an increase in sales or clients? Perhaps the company wants position itself in a new market? Your client will definitely want to reach beyond raising their Twitter following, their likes on Facebook, or shares of the company blog. They are going to want to see some real, tangible benefits to hiring a PR firm. Make sure you are aware of these before you get started so you know exactly what you are shooting for.
If you take the time to get the best information from your client before you open the gate and start running, both you and they will be on a straighter road toward reaping the rewards of your success.