October 16, 2019
As the case with many professions, it can be easy in the communications industry to get trapped in the mindset of go, go, go! With countless to-do items, the “yes” and now-quickly-tackle philosophy is a fast way of getting through work. Yet, the issue with this practice is that it leaves less room for thoughtful consultation.
We wear many hats in our daily work but strategic consultants to our clients is one of the most important. We provide the most value not when we’re “yes men,” but when we’re thoughtful partners that carefully review each tactic and look for an opportunity to better serve a client’s business goals. A key aspect of that strategic role is asking questions, suggesting new ideas and pushing each other to think bigger. To that end, here are a few questions you should ask yourself, colleagues or a client today.
Take the regular occurrence of a client planning to distribute an announcement. Maybe a formal release has already been drafted or you’re at the beginning of the planning process, either way, there is still time to ask why are we sending this? How does this connect to an overarching business objective? Who is the audience for this? These questions might be very clear or they might require a little more thought and potentially some reworking of the announcement messaging and timing.
It’s significantly more productive to ask these questions before an announcement goes out rather than after when you’re trying to understand the little ROI that resulted.
You’ve created an exceptional piece of content, placed it with a perfectly selected publication and started to see reader comments pop-up. Now, is that all? Should the content die there? Or is there an opportunity to utilize it somewhere else? Could it be chopped up into a series for social channels? If the topic resonated really well with readers, should it be repurposed for a webinar and the article becomes the basis for the outline?
There can be a tendency to tie a bow at the end of projects and consider them complete. But with the seemingly endless digital avenues we have at our disposal, a quick checkmark could be preemptive. Instead, ask is there another audience this could reach through a different format?
The team has secured a high profile piece of media coverage for a client – job well done! On to the next pitch, right? No! Does the piece of coverage hit on a key messaging? Does it illustrate a thought leadership topic you feel resonates really well with an executive’s expertise? Then don’t let it slip away! Boost it on social, recommend a paid syndication campaign or create a platform for internal employees to share it on their channels. There are a variety of ways to get further engagement on that one piece of coverage that range in the budget. You have the opportunity to be creative and provide a new recommendation.
You’re in the position where you’ve received a piece of material or a topic that you feel could use more substance. Instead of moving forward as is and hoping for the best, ask, how can we build this out? What we can we add to support these ideas? Is there third-party data that can be leveraged or an interesting customer story that connects to this hypothesis? It is in no one’s best interest to continue working with ‘weak’ material when the team could dig a little deeper and make it stronger. Again, this dots back to our roles as strategic consultants and that duty to advise clients on what they need to be successful.
When in doubt over whether you should be questioning a project, remember that Eric Schmidt, former CEO and executive chairman of Google, once responded, “We run the company by questions, not by answers.”
You’ll find that even when asking questions to yourself, you start looking at work with a fresh perspective. The challenge is to slow down and make time to process everything that crosses your desk. You might not finish the to-do list as quickly, but you’ll deliver much more strategic results.
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