I don’t believe there is a cookie-cutter PR strategy that can be learnt at college. The world is changing at such a fast rate, and dramatically too – the spread of COVID-19 and the worldwide lockdown is example of this, albeit an extreme one. The point is, you can follow certain steps to design a strategy, but there is no one formula. The crucial first step is to ask questions.
I’ve found that not any one person in a business, knows all the answers. It’s usually a collaborative process, especially when difficult questions are asked. It’s the backwards and forwards between client and agency that typically creates the spark.
Start with the expected ones: the what, where, who, how, why, and include questions about industry positioning, the media landscape being entered into, along with a download of corporate information like brand bibles.
It’s here where the questions often stop.
It’s easy to form a plan that fits neatly in to a client’s expectation. For all intents purposes, our job is to serve a client’s needs – we need to, and must, support a larger strategy.
The pitfall however, is that we could land up creating something expected.
Ask the dumb questions
I’ve found that a dumb question usually leads to areas of ambiguity. Ambiguity is hard to work with – it creates vast areas of grey – and grey is not our friend when it comes to creating communication that influences. It’s also not our friend when it comes to deliverying against KPIs.
If we have a question that sounds dumb, it has to be asked. We work on the basis that everyone around the table is an intelligent individual, and so if something isn’t clear, it generally needs defining.
‘Why’ is a powerful friend
Ask ‘why’ seven times and interrogate the answers. You’ll need a willing and knowing participant of course, or else you risk sounding arrogant! It’s the kind of psychological questioning a therapist uses, and it works wonders on unpacking the logic behind decisions. If you understand why you’ve been asked to do what you’re doing, you’ll find that it leads you to what and how to measure your results.
Speaking of friends…make sure to reach outside of your circle
A corporate world is a nucleus – teams are often under pressure to turn out reports, attend planning meetings, manage budgets, and try not to burn out. Rarely is there time to look from the outside, in. And that’s the unique perspective an agency should bring. Speak to industry contacts, starting with journalists but also including people journalists would consider as influential readers. The answers you’ll be able to feedback to a client will be invaluable.
This article is written by Michelle Lewis, director at Have Your Say.