Here are the questions I recommend as arsenal for every strategic communicator heading into a tough meeting or assignment:
- What does success look like?
- Why this, why now?
- What are the project or corporate objectives?
- What are the communications objectives?
- How can effective communications help advance the project objective?
- What are the main risks/opportunities?
- Thinking back, what worked and what didn’t? Why?
- Who are the key audiences? Why are they important?
- What are the project management parameters (time, budget, staff)?
- If we could change just one thing, what should it be?
Asking these questions can be a major pivot point in shaping relationships with your internal clients. Add the secret sauce of my 5 Sanity Saving Strategies for Client Relationship Management listed below and there will be no stopping you!
Meet Audiences Where they Are: Frame what you’re offering in the language of your internal audiences. If your CEO is keen on stakeholder outreach, use that language instead of saying you’re working on a communications campaign. Have a leader who’s keen on employee engagement? Use that framing to position your internal communication activities. Paying attention to the cues around you will save you a lot of aggravation, and will help contribute to alignment.
- Be Prepared: Do your due diligence, research the situation and look for existing examples of success that demonstrates to your client that they’ve come to the right place.
- Manage Expectations: When clients expect magical solutions and we’re working with very real limitations of time, money and staff, it sets up a situation where everyone’s unhappy. The client doesn’t get what he/she wants, and the communicator is set up for failure. Arm yourself with strong project management and explore the possibility of service level agreements as your best defences in the battle over expectation management.
- Add Value: Ultimately, your internal clients want to look good and to avoid risk exposure. Demonstrate in your day-to-day contributions that you’re there to help them do just that.
- Ask Good Questions: Along with the Top 10 Questions up your sleeve, “help me to understand” can instantly disarm your client and make them want to tell you what you need to know.