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Are you asking the correct questions pre content strategy?

And are you looking for hidden agendas?

I recently had a meeting with a client of mine and their new PR agency. At the end of the meeting the PR agency asked my client how many media ‘mentions’ they were expecting to be generated.

I could understand why they were asking this – it’s good to have a gauge on a client’s expectations. However, my client had no clue – it was their first time dabbling in the world of PR and gauging what was a good amount of coverage was not something they had the experience to do.

So, what should you ask?

It got me thinking as to what questions I ask clients in the preliminary content strategy stages. While I never would ask “how much content do you expect to see?” I would certainly ask questions on what results they expected and how quickly they were expecting them.

The answers I’m given are almost always based on their business objectives (and often merely a repetition of them). Things like… more traffic, better engagement, brand awareness, lead generation etc.

But how vague are these answers?! And are they really that useful anyway? Surely discussing the business’s objectives would deduce these things in the first place.

So what should we really be asking clients?

I don’t think it makes much sense to be completely driven by the answers to extremely open-ended (and rather theoretical) questions. Putting too much emphasis on the client’s expectations (and not dictating what a good result looks like) changes the dynamics of a working relationship and could easily sway what would otherwise be a successful campaign. Also, it doesn’t really make sense to expect a client to give specific answers when they’re new to the process anyway.

However, if we’re not asking them, then how do we predict what would be a good result for them without seeming like any we’re moulding the situation?

Would it be more useful to try and find hidden agendas?

I also recently had a meeting with a well-known Australian photographer. We were trying to come up with some solutions for businesses looking to venture into online content. When discussing what results we would be trying to achieve he said… “well that totally depends on their agenda”.

What he meant by this was that sometimes a good result can be based on a completely hidden agenda – such as middle management getting the thumbs up from the owner of the business, having another team abroad imitate a strategy or getting a mention at the annual staff gathering. It could be based on ego, on someone wanting a raise or on actual results. But his point was that you’ll never really see a hidden agenda unless you really look for it…

What questions do you ask? Do they help? And do you ever look for hidden agendas?

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