How to help clients generate news

One of the main conversations I have dreaded over the past six years since moving agency-side is when your boss or commercial team excitedly sit you down to explain they had won a new client and that you would be responsible for managing the account.

For account teams, it can be a mix of reactions; 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” can set in – especially if the individual hasn’t been involved in the initial pitch or if the client operates in a “boring” sector or appears overly technical.

Regardless of whether the remit is to gain coverage and links, you need to do the “bread and butter” well; encompassing a range of tactics to ensure a steady pipeline of results. Creative campaigns, business news, reactive comments and more.

However, what if your client gives you nothing? Zero direction, or content or potential stories? What if they don’t know what you want despite your best efforts to explain this to them?

For me, it’s all about educating your client to give you that “insider knowledge” you’re not privy to, encouraging open communication across their business and getting them to come to you with ideas – ultimately they will know their industry better than you.

The questions you MUST be asking your clients (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.

Think like a journalist and dig a little deeper with the following questions:

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, and can we talk about them?
Readers want to know what businesses and suppliers work with one another, 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 and that you have permission from all parties to talk about this.

Are you planning to launch any new services?
This 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 a 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.

Have you or any of the team noticed any new industry trends or regulations that you can comment on?
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.

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.

Find out if your client has any sales data or insight reports 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 don’t want to use the same names and 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 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.

Whilst these questions aren’t exhaustive they should provide enough ammo to take to a client meeting or call to at least gather some information that’s of use to inspire some stories.

Written by James Watkins, digital PR specialist at marketing agency Impression

PRmoment Awards 2020