This is a guest post by Tamara Vlootman.
Over the last few years, I've been focusing more and more on gaining insights - both about our clients and about the PR industry itself.
I chose this specialisation as a job role at my PR agency driven by the desire to help make brands be truly based on something real instead of just pushing some ‘added value’ to existing marketing fluff.
But this specialisation is also a source of frustration. More and more often, I get the feeling that we in the PR industry are not even close to reaching our full potential of being strategic advisors.
In my opinion, Inbound PR is not only about a different way of using technology. It’s about creating real and solid value in a world that increasingly screams for something authentic and honest - because the demand for creating real stories for more engaged, rather than just bigger audiences is rising. And the only way to add value is by spending focused time creating it, not by compromising with rushed pitches and press releases.
But Why the Itch to Stick with the Old?
Over the last month, after speaking to Stephen Waddington and Iliyana Stareva about PR and its future, something became even more clear to me. We, the hard-working PR people, have some real confidence issues to deal with in both trying new things and in being strategic advisors who push limits, even when it gets a bit uncomfortable. We’ve always had those issues and somehow we still haven't managed to get rid of them. As Stephen put it: ‘we’re so scared to fail in public’. And so we still put ourselves in the position where we are followers of orders rather than leaders of change.
It's often the latest, direct, immediate and almost "please provide yesterday" request of the client that kills our curiosity and the drive to ask questions that allow us to get to the core of the problem. Yet it can be so simple.
Think about it. When was the last time that you said ‘no’ to a client when the information you needed to create true, solid work was not fully provided to you? Or when did you push back to try something new because your insights team told you it would probably work better than typing the millionth press release as ordered by the client?
What can we, as PR pros, do?
So how do you go from blindly following orders when your clients ring you up in a spur of slight panic and ask you to jump in on a brand new campaign right away to being a trusted advisor? It's easier said than done.
In the first place, you need to make sure your client understands that you cannot help them with creating stories that count without a solid background on what makes sense for the brand and the why's behind it. PR no longer works just on the fence to completing to-do lists. As PR pros, we need to make sure we can create and deliver stories that are truly impactful in the long run, even if the price is that they would be delivered tomorrow instead of today.
3 Key Questions PR Needs to Ask:
So the only way to make this happen is by asking a set of questions that you can always have on a piece of paper somewhere or in your head:
- ‘Why’ is the perfect question to start with. Simon Sinek was so right. Mind you, this question has to be asked a few times in order for you to actually arrive at the core of the problem. Five times is the recommendation. There is a good chance this will lead to the next question.
- What end results are you after and what will it mean to you - both achieving them and failing?
- How is this perceived within the company's wider goals? Does the story you want PR to tell actually help you grow your brand?
By asking these questions and evaluating their answers, you'll be better able to give advice that sits on a higher (brand)level. The drawing board can help you dig deeper and discover what your client really needs from PR and how that could be a fit for their 2018 goals.
As PR pros, we need to build up our confidence with knowledge and a committed desire to push boundaries. We need to start asking better, more focused questions.