Thursday, March 02, 2006


For the past two days, I've been prepping two new clients. Preparation is the most important and sometimes, least enjoyable work a PR practitioner can do. It consists initially of reading reams of financial, marketing, news, speech, press release and other documents to begin to understand a client and environment in which the client operates. Usually some of this work is done in the sales process, but it is never enough. Once a client is signed, the real work begins.

One mistake some practitioners make is to launch directly into client interviews without this "secondary" research in depth. It becomes apparent the practitioner doesn't know much and that leads to an early loss of confidence.

The most important element a practitioner brings to any new relationship is a smart question: Smart questions are gained through preparation, but not only preparation. The second step of prep is the hardest. That is digesting data into key points that explain the client and suggest topics for discussion.

The challenge of digesting is knowing what to take from boxes of documents -- and what to discard. I've never found a precise way of doing this. Usually I look for facts that explain the client and market in greater detail, but that is not all. I also look for statements of opinion that reveal how a client thinks. If I can give back to the client in my own words what the client thinks about the company, competitors and the marketplace, I've done a successful job. If not, prep has been only modestly successful.

I've got days more work to do on these clients, and I'll be depressed about the middle of the task because I usually conclude I will never understand them -- until I do.


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