You’re ready to get started on strategizing, writing about, and pitching your new client, but there are still things you need to establish before you begin. For example, there are some public relations questions to ask the client during the onboarding that will both inform your next steps and demonstrate your expertise in working collaboratively with your clients.
These questions are also going to give you important insights into the client’s current business, help you align their expectations with what you expect the results will be, and uncover potential trouble spots.
The questions to ask your new PR clients generally fall into 3 categories:
Here are the best questions to ask PR clients as part of your kick-off meeting, or if you prefer, as part of an onboarding get-to-know-your-client questionnaire.
The account management questions to ask PR clients
These questions explicitly establish how you’ll communicate with the client, whether that communication is receiving feedback on a press release or requesting a product to be sent to an editor for review.
Who is our main point of contact?
You want to dedicate your time to placing media, not chasing approvals inside of the client’s company. For this to happen, you’ll want to request one main point of contact at the agency. This is the person who will collect the feedback internally and give you their team’s final approval.
Of course, requesting a backup contact is helpful too, for the times you have time-sensitive editor requests and your main contact is out of office.
Who will serve as your company spokesperson, and do they need media training?
Most companies select one company spokesperson to speak on behalf of their brand, usually the company’s CEO or Director of Marketing. This person should be selected and notified from the beginning. This is not a decision that you want your client to be quickly made when you receive that first journalist request for an interview.
Once the spokesperson is selected, ask about their past experience speaking with the media. Are they experienced and comfortable? Have they been interviewed on camera? If not, let the client know you’d like to lead or arrange media training right away.
How many products may we request for editorial review?
If you’re promoting a product, you’ll likely want to get it into the hands of editors for review. Unless the product is an expensive one like a computer, your client should be made aware that any product sent to editors will not be returned.
With this in mind, how many pieces are they willing to send to editors as part of the PR campaign? And who is available in-house to complete these requests? Their answer will help you narrow down your PR efforts to the appropriate media outreach size.
The brand strategy questions to ask PR clients
Brand strategy questions get you up-to-speed on the overarching PR & marketing plan for the client. You want to download the latest the greatest research they have about their customers and their competitors. You also want to know what exciting announcements (or storms) are brewing on the horizon.
Who is your existing customer, and who is your target customer?
This question gets to the heart of the matter because the answers to each part might be different. There are times when a brand’s marketing strategy is to enter a new market or reach a new customer, so their past customer demographics do not apply.
Ask to see buyer personas if they have them. If not, a general breakdown of their target audience demographics will work. Are they primarily targeting women or men? In what age range? At what income level? In which regions?
All of this information is going to inform your decisions around appropriate media channels, influencers, and messaging.
Who are your main competitors, and what are their strengths and weaknesses against your brand?
Years ago, I worked with an experienced executive who liked to ask how the competition was better than our brand. He was right to study the competition that way; he was asking us to view our competition through the customer’s eyes and not our own.
Use media monitoring tools to gather current sentiment analysis and trending topics with your client’s customers. Look at the company’s most recent reviews and see if there are common praises and complaints.
Do you notice specific features, benefits, or even trouble spots that the client should address in their PR campaign? Then, do the same thing for each major competitor.
Do you have any upcoming product launches or company announcements?
It seems obvious, but sometimes clients forget to tell their agency partners what’s planned for the next few months!
This is one of the best questions to ask PR clients, not only at the start of your relationship but continuously. You want to get your client in the habit of seeing your PR team as an extension of their in-house team. Remind them that you need to be updated frequently with the news of upcoming business announcements, product launches, and developments.
Let them know that these upcoming launches and announcements are the PR gold you’re looking for!
Are there any brewing PR crisis issues on the horizon?
Can you imagine kicking off a PR campaign with your new client, only to learn that they have a consumer lawsuit that they’re tackling in the legal department?
You are a messaging partner with your new client, so ask them to share any concerns around negative messaging that might be headed their way.
If they’re unsure, let them know you’ll be using your media monitoring software to get them a current snapshot.
The client expectations questions to ask PR clients
Of all the questions to ask new PR clients, this set of questions is the most important.
Experienced PR professionals set the client’s expectations from the very start. That’s because they’ve learned (probably more times than they’d like to admit) that letting the client lead the expectations results in disappointment.
Use these next questions to learn what your new client is looking for, and then respond in ways that set clear and realistic expectations for what you can and can’t promise to deliver.
You can promise consistent, high-quality PR outreach. You cannot promise specific media mentions.
How will you be measuring the success of our PR efforts?
This client question plays a major role in the PR strategy you’ll develop. Will success be measured against sales, social media engagement, website traffic?
What PR “win” would make them the most excited? Where have they seen their competition placed in the media that they’d love to see for themselves?
This question alone demonstrates your focus on handing them PR success that they can report internally to their teams and supervisors.
Do you understand that media placements are our goal, but they’re not guaranteed?
This question may scare you, but don’t let it. You’re the PR expert, and this question can be delivered alongside a basic discussion of the concrete tasks you’ll be delivering versus the unspecific number of media mentions you’ll place.
Put the focus on your team’s well-built PR workflow and how your experience has proven in the past that these result in desired media placements.
The time you invest in this conversation up front will save you headaches down the road.
Keep client answers front and center
The answers you receive from the new client are golden and should be referred back to often.
Share them with the team, print them out and post them if needed, and make a plan to look back at them monthly or quarterly.
When you make a commitment to work off the same page as your PR client, you’re on the right foot for a long and successful partnership!