When I meet with clients many of them think I will quickly have all of the answers—after all, I’ve worked in public relations for nearly 20 years. Ask me a question I’ll have the right answer. Right? I wish my brain processed that fast!
Instead of a quick answer, the clients usually get a lot of questions. Why? Because it’s my business to know your business. I want to understand the reason behind the question.
- Why are you thinking about doing something?
- Why are you asking me this question?
- How does it translate back to business goals?
- Will it help the bottom line or the company image?
I’ll be the first to admit I ask a lot of questions. Maybe it’s the journalist in me? Maybe it’s curiosity? Or maybe it’s because the better I understand where a client is coming from, the better we can make the final decision together to advance their business.
Recently I was invited to collaborate with two creative services firms on behalf of a client. I was asked to to the meeting with little to no information about what we were going to discuss for our mutual client as a campaign for the New Year. The creative team presented the big idea and I started to ask questions. I felt a bit negative not hopping on board out of the gate. I asked questions…
- Would the concept create too narrow of a niche for our client?
- Have they asked the client for sales data related to the idea?
- What does trend data in sales show?
- How will this move the bottom line in a positive direction?
- Can we use the concept through all communications (it takes 4-7 impressions to get someone to act!).
The creative team didn’t have any answers and I wasn’t getting the concept. It seemed narrow based on my conversations with the business owner, his position in the Indianapolis community and vision for the company. The team decided to ask questions and reconvene the next week.
On the way to the meeting the following week I was hunting a parking spot in downtown Indianapolis when my cell phone rang. It was the owner of the company. We’d been trying to connect on an unrelated topic. During the phone call he provided key trend data related to the future sales position of the company. I said, “Well that’s interesting. I’m walking into the meeting about 2013 marketing and public relations for your company. The team is going to love the information.”
Be open to questions and be honest. If you have concerns about sharing too much information, ask for your agreement to have a confidentiality statement. I’ve had business owners look puzzled when I ask questions about the direction of their company. The more your public relations and marketing team knows, the better the ideas, advice and recommendations that will benefit your business in the long run.