Happy New Year to all you SEOs and digital PRs out there. If you have any new clients kicking off this month and need some help with some potential “quick win” ideas then please read on…
One of the main conversations I (and I’m sure many others) have dreaded over the past six years since making the switch to agency-side PR was when your boss or commercial team excitedly sits you down to explain they had won a new client and that you would be responsible for running the account.
The reactions tend to be mixed by the time this chat is over. Some leave feeling excited by the challenges of a new client – particularly if it’s in an exciting sector or if it involves working with a dream brand. However for many, new client fear is very much real – particularly if they haven’t been involved in the initial pitch or if the client operates in what appears to be a “boring sector” that could be overtly technical or rarely appeals to mass-media.
What can you do to overcome new PR client fear?
If you work in digital PR and your remit is to gain coverage and links, then both of these sets of clients should come with similar challenges. You will need to do the basics well; encompassing both a proactive and reactive approach to put your client top of the news agenda with creative campaign content, client news, timely comments and more.
However the problem can often be drawn down to your contact at the business you’re working with. What if they seemingly give you nothing in terms of content or potential stories? It usually boils down to their experience. If they work in marketing they will likely have some PR experience but remember there could be a knowledge gap (hence why they are paying you!)
For those clients that seemingly have no news of their own, the natural approach for many is to go straight down the campaign route. However we know this can involve significant time and investment and is not a guaranteed success. Traditional PR tactics must play a role in any solid long term link building strategy but what can you do if there is a seeming stop-gap in terms of knowledge or information sharing?
For me it’s all about educating your client and encouraging open communication across their business and getting them to come to you with ideas (ultimately they will know their industry better than you).
Questions to ask PR clients
The questions you MUST be asking your clients via phone or face-to-face (on a bimonthly basis at least)
How is your business doing?
The most open question between any agency and client; this is more of a prompt question to help steer ongoing conversation (while also providing some useful insight to you as an agency!).
Based on the response to this question it is then worth asking the following:
Have you hired any new members of staff?
People are naturally interested in who works where and when ‘big industry players’ move around between businesses and therefore makes for natural news. If your client operates in an area where there is a wide remit of trade and regional business press, a new appointment release can be an easy and quick way to secure press coverage and links.
Have you won any new recent contracts or clients, and can we talk about them?
Like the previous question, readers will be inquisitive about which businesses and suppliers work with one, and talking about these new relationships can be a great way to showcase your services and build links in the process. Be sure to check for any non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and that you have permission from a client’s client to talk about this.
Are you planning to launch any new services?
The fact that a client is launching a new service indicates there must be a clear gap in the market to be filled meaning something about that space must have changed in recent times. Find out from the client what this change is and talk about this in your press release or use it as collateral to pitch some feature content to relevant press.
What are your plans for expansion and growth? Will this involve recruiting new staff?
Local press in particular love these kinds of stories – particularly if it means there could be the possibility of new jobs coming to that town or city. As well as providing great opportunities for link building the added benefits of talent attraction and a free jobs board are well worth their weight.
How is the business doing financially? Do you have any strong stats we could talk about?
Ensure you “read the room” when asking this question. If conversations have been notably positive it might be worth asking if the business has experienced record growth levels or has any other stats to showcase its growth that we can share with the press. Journalists like a positive news story to offset other negative press and again it’s a great way to position your client as leading the way in their sector. Many journalists will need financial figures such as turnover or profit so worth making sure your client is willing to disclose these should you opt for this route.
Have you or any of the team noticed any new trends or regulations in the industry over the past few weeks?
Encourage your client contact to bring more heads together when you ask this question. As I mentioned earlier, the staff that work for your client are going to have infinitely more insider knowledge than yourself meaning its important you build relationships with them.
If they have noticed a rise in demand for particular services or a lack of talent in certain specialisms as a couple of examples, drill down into their reasons behind these and see if there are any angles for some potential feature pitches or thought leadership.
Have you seen a rise in demand for certain services recently? And if so, why do you think this is?
If a client has seen marked rise for a particular good or service recently there is likely to be an underlying reason behind this. Take that information and explore the reasons behind this to see if there’s a story there that could be newsworthy.
To give you an example, a lead generation business we work with came to us to explain that they had seen a record number of customers coming to them to replace their boiler in the middle of this summer. By simply putting these observations into a press release and comparing it to the recent record temperatures and we have a very compelling story.
Do you have any customer / business / insight data that you could share?
Data journalism is becoming a more commonly used tactic due to the fact that the story already exists in the form of numbers and information – it just takes someone to analyse the data and come up with the facts.
Ask your client if they have any sales data or insight reports that they are using as part of their commercial strategy that they can share with you. You might notice some unusual trends or patterns which they might not have spotted, or if they have, didn’t think would be of use to you.
Do you have any new staff within your team that are willing to put their name forward for PR efforts? Encourage more female spokespeople!
Journalists love to be able to use new sources of data and information where they can instead of using the same faces over and over again. Ask your client if there any particular specialists in their field that are willing to be put forward for PR opportunities and encourage open communication with them to try and get the information that you need.
There is an unprecedented demand for female spokespeople (and rightly so) so encourage your clients to put more women forward for comment opportunities when possible.
While these questions aren’t exhaustive they should provide enough ammo to take to a client meeting to at least gather some information that’s of use to inspire a press release, thought leadership feature idea or supply enough content to inform reactive comment opportunities.
As I mentioned, these are questions are most-suited for conversations over the telephone or in a face-to-face meeting with a client. I’ve always found that clients are significantly less likely to divulge these ‘golden nuggets’ of information via email and it can take a bit of a prod to get it from them!
So while I don’t recommend ringing journalists unless absolutely necessary – this is where picking up the phone can often inspire some quick wins and I think is a great way to generate effective newshooks for clients with slightly smaller budgets or time constraints.
For more information about our digital PR offering here at Impression, head here!