Those of us who work in the PR world can attest to the sometimes difficult task of getting clients to tell you about the newsworthy stuff they’re up to. Same goes for their identifying realistic goals for what PR can do for their business. But if you can get a sense of those goals, you can build a comprehensive plan to get them there.

Sometimes it takes some metaphorical teeth-pulling to get your clients to answer questions that help you understand what they need from you. Sometimes it takes some tact and digging to uncover them. And, of course, it takes listening to what they’re saying—because sometimes even the most dialed-in business owners take some prodding to get to what they really want out of their partnership.

Below, we’ve outlined our top questions to ask to better understand client goals, in no particular order.

  • What’s the brand story? Why did the founder decide to to start the business? The answer to this question helps you better understand the void in the marketplace that the founder aimed to fill. The answer there may help you get to the broad goal — “Sell a product that solves X problem when other products couldn’t solve it.”
  • What is the “why” behind the brand? Said another way, what’s the purpose behind the brand? Knowing what brand leadership sees as its purpose (solving a certain problem or raising awareness about an issue, say) helps better understand what’s ultimately most important to your client.
  • Who are the brand’s target consumers? When you know who a brand wants to get in front of, you can target media outlets and build social campaigns that cater to those demographics.
  • What does the competitive landscape look like? The answer here will help you better understand what you, as a marketer, are up against. It can help you get a sense of what niche you can be marketing to that competitors aren’t, or a service offering that is much needed and very different than what others are offering. Ultimately, this question will help you get an idea of how you can market the product to increase sales or awareness (likely a top goal for the brand).

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you better shape a plan that matches up with client goals, and when the next project rolls around, their only question will be “Where do I sign?”

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