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PR Tip #21 – Understand What Matters Most

February 27, 2016


Understanding what matters most in PR is an ongoing, every day challenge. Why? Because to understand what matters most means you have to understand what matters most to each audience you serve and sometimes that can cause conflict. What I’m talking about is understanding what the expectations are from the different audiences we serve. As PR professionals, this can mean understanding what matters to several audiences but for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to focus on two different and distinct audiences:

  • Reporters and Analysts

  • Clients

Of this list, reporters and analysts are the easiest to understand. Reporters want a unique angle on a story that readers will want to read. They want to understand an issue and articulate why a specific something matters. And reporters need this information and insight quickly as they are always on a deadline. Analysts are similar but on a different schedule. Reporters also want to know that they can trust you as a source. They also need to know they can trust your client. More importantly, they want to know that when you approach them for a story, and pitch them facts, figures, trend analysis and story ideas, that there is really something there to write about.


Reporters also want to deal with PR people that know their stuff. This means that you have to know what your clients or company makes, why they make it, who it’s made for, why it matters to the customer and the industry as a whole, and how it’s different than what a competitor might offer. You need to be able to place your client within a larger context of the trends shaping the industry and pitch it as a complete story.


Reporters also want you to respect their time. They are busy, usually under a deadline and are writing more bylines today than ever before. The always-on, online news cycle can be crushing and unforgiving and they want PR people to respect their boundaries. When they commit to a time, they want you and your client to commit as well. Nothing frustrates a reporter more than when a meeting gets moved, and moved again, and then…one more time…moved.


Clients are a bit harder to read. Some of what matters to them is pretty basic:

  • Positive and relevant coverage about the company and its products;

  • More coverage than its competitors; and

  • No to limited bad coverage.

To approach an ongoing PR program believing that this is all that matters to a client is a recipe for the client issuing an RFP and replacing you. The key to better understanding a client’s expectations is to step outside of what might be done with PR objectives, strategies and tactics and focus on what the company’s business and market objectives are so you know what they are ultimately trying to accomplish. If you take the time to understand these dynamics, you can better shape your programs and tactics to help them accomplish things they might not have known were possible with PR. For instance,


if you know the company wants to be seen as complimentary to a larger, more established company, you can shape the content you create to reflect that benefit. If you know that the company wants the market to understand that it has been one of the most innovative in their specific space, but only want to talk about products and features, you can help by creating programs that articulate that innovation.


Sometimes what the client wants is in conflict with what they are willing to do. If that’s the case, you need to understand how this disconnect will impact your ability to be successful and try to determine if there is a path for you to be successful. For instance, if the company wants to make sure that they are considered a thought leader but are unwilling to put any of the executives out there for commentary or opinion, you’ve got a disconnect. If they want to be seen as innovative but only willing to talk about features and functionality, that also is a disconnect.


Ensuring that you have the tools to meet anyone else’s expectations starts with developing an understanding of what those expectations are and then being clear how you can, or can’t help meet them.

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