The important thing is to not stop questioning.– Albert Einstein
I grew up in corporate communications departments where I always had access to the people I needed to reach to stay up on the latest and greatest. I wanted to know, well, everything.
I’d organize meetings regularly with marketing, HR, legal, investor relations, sales, and product development departments globally. I did this to satisfy my natural curiosity about every aspect of the business, but also to ensure I was as knowledgeable as possible.
Knowing what was up helped me take advantage of opportunities and respond to any threats to the brand. It made me invaluable to my boss and other departmental leaders. And I learned that staff really appreciated the time I took to learn more about them and record their stories.
I’ve carried this practice into my work as a strategic communications consultant. I ask LOTS of questions. I’ve learned that the minor details people think are unimportant are sometimes the very nuggets that make great stories. It takes time (and I charge for it :-)), but it’s incredibly powerful. I’ve used this approach time and again to get great results for media coverage, internal communications, speeches, website copy, and more.
Investing the time and energy into digging deep shows clients that you care and are committed to their success.
Curiosity is the starting point for any great communications work. When we’re curious, we ask questions, which then inspires critical thinking and creative problem solving. I wish more PR pros got this. I think a healthy dose of curiosity elevates our profession and sets us apart.
If you’re not gathering intel as profoundly or as consistently as you could (or at all), it’s never too late to start.
Create a rotating quarterly schedule to connect with staff in key departments. Get on their calendars now (they’ll likely have more free time right now). And while you should certainly talk to leaders, don’t limit it to them. Go down a layer or two.
Ask a mix of professional and personal questions. Listen well, ask follow-ups, and take great notes or record the conversations. Use the insights you gain from these meetings to blow out your campaigns, media pitches, social media posts, events, or whatever your scope of work may be.
I typically spend up to an hour in these conversations. Here’s a sample of questions I’ve asked:
- Why is your work important for you? What do you love about it?
- What are your biggest professional challenges?
- Who are your heroes? What people do you admire? Why?
- How does your work contribute to the success of the company?
- What do you do for fun?
- What influencers/voices do you listen to?
- What do you think should be shared with the world about [company]? Why?
The more we know about our clients, their customers and competitors, and the industries connected to the business, the better communications advisors we can be to them. They’ll reward us with their trust, respect, and continued business.
Jennifer R. Hudson
ThinkBeyond Public Relations
I offer an 8-week premium corporate messaging program that feeds the curiosity of senior-level PR and marketing professionals. You’ll grow professionally and gain higher-level strategic communications skills so you can add greater value to your clients and earn thousands more in fees.
The program includes an online course, plus weekly coaching and Q&A sessions with me. You’ll learn research methods and the six-phase framework I’ve used for a decade to break down the barriers that prevent companies from getting aligned around clear, concise, consistent messaging. Reach out if you want to learn more.