You can never tell when you might learn something new.
Dining recently at Mt. Snow, Vermont's summit lodge after a fun morning of skiing, I was given a lesson in persuasion from an audacious 8-year-old named Sara. I overheard Sara and her older sister Lisa devising a way to convince their ski instructor to let them go on their favorite ski trail. Her idea was simple yet brilliant: Eagerly ask the instructor if he would take them. Guess what? It worked. After approaching the instructor, he went back and asked who’d like to try their trail of choice. Can you guess who screamed the loudest that she did? Sara confidently looked at her sister and said, “I told you. All you have to do is ask."
The art of the ask is a topic on which folks have written countless books and “how to” articles. One of those basic truths, it easily gets lost or confused in our tendency (as adults) to overthink. Even PR professionals, the supposed “communication experts”, can easily get things mixed up and actually forget “the ask."
PR, no matter the type, has many facets because it caters to multiple masters. The client is obviously the top dog, the last person a PR pro has to please. With that being said, you’re not a “Yes man," doing whatever the client wants, but you offer discerning advice. Just like any professional consultant, you suggest the right tactics to meet a client's goals.
Don’t think of that as a given. When making recommendations, you have toask for your client’s agreement. If you don’t, there’s no give-and-take dynamic. And in doing so, you need to employ tact by understanding your client’s style and the best way to make the ask. Do you try to have it come out as client’s idea? Should you do it aggressively or in a more casual manner? It all depends on the personality of your client. Ultimately though, part of your success depends on how well you master the ask.
Where PR gets sticky is when you have a bunch of other folks to ask--including reporters, event coordinators, journalists, employees, associations and probably others as well. You want all of them to be on your side so together you can achieve the client’s goals. In this instance you should also be aware of the style and wants/needs of those you work with.
Last but not least, remember to ask for what you need to run your PR campaign. It could make the difference between a shining success or dismal failure.
Have you asked for something to make your campaign more effective? Please share your story!
Wendy Marx is the founder and president of Marx Communications, a boutique inbound marketing and public relations agency. An award-winning B2B public relations pro, she has helped many small- & medium-sized firms (SMBs) become well-known industry brands and transform their businesses, going from Anonymity to Industry Icon™.
Her business articles have appeared in The New York Times, InformationWeek, Inc., Advertising Age, & Fast Company, among other outlets.