Before starting on a project, sharp communicators ask questions to help them understand what their clients are hoping to achieve so they can both work toward the same end goal.
The ability for communicators to ‘play reporter’ and ask pertinent questions is an important skill that contributes to strategic and successful communications.
Whether you’re working as an independent consultant or as a member of an in-house communications team, in my experience the following three preliminary questions can help you and your clients save time, resources and frustration.
- What business project(s) do you want to support? Communications activities help advance corporate objectives. Clients know which business initiatives are a priority and asking them to describe the important ones can help you get a better idea of what you could be working on.
- What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Asking your client to describe the problem as they see it is a great way to help communicators build rapport and gain insights on what type of communication activities might help address the issue. Once you have a more informed understanding of the problem as your client sees it, you’ll be better prepared to set up a framework for action.
- What does success look like? Clients will ultimately measure success based on performance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask them what success looks like before you decide to move forward with the project.
Doing so will help the communicator identify and manage client expectations from the outset, which will help ensure the project and players stay in step and on track.
For example, your client may have a ‘send releases about everything’ attitude that you may want to temper sooner rather than later.
Making sure your client has realistic expectations will help you provide strategic counsel and build a productive and positive long-term relationship.
These preliminary questions will naturally lead to others and pave the way for the development of a strategic communications plan.
Can you think of other questions that can help communicators do their best work?