3 questions corporate communicators should ask

If you’re getting bogged down by a client or co-worker’s vision, this framework can help solve the problem you face.

Corporate communicators, does this exchange sound familiar to you?

Co-worker: “We need a flier.”

You: “A flier?”

Co-worker: “Yes. We need to get the word out about all the latest online courses we are offering. We want to create a flier to go with the membership renewal letters.”

You: “How many fliers are currently mailed with the membership renewal letters?”

Co-worker: “There are three other fliers.”

You: “So, this would be a fourth flier.”

Co-worker: “Yes.”

You: “And you want the flier to list the titles of the online courses that we currently have available?”

Co-worker: “Yes.”

You: “But you can go online and see an entire listing of the courses from the landing page?”

Co-worker: “Yes, but we still want a flier. Members ask us what courses are available.”

You: “Do you tell them to look at the course website or send them the link?”

Co-worker: “No—but if we could mail them a flier, they could see the course titles.”

My co-workers eventually came around to the idea of sending an all-member email that listed the most popular course titles and included a link to the education site, instead of creating a flier—but it took awhile.

It would have been far easier if, from the beginning, we steered the conversation toward the problem the client was trying to solve—that members didn’t know about the available courses.

What’s the best way to achieve this?

I’ve recently started adapting the “Ask Me 3” model to handle these discussions.

The “Ask Me 3” initiative was developed by the National Patient Safety Foundation to promote clear communication between patients and physicians. In it, patients are encouraged to ask—and physicians are encouraged to answer—three specific questions at each visit. They include:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What must I do to fix it?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Similar questions could be asked of our clients, co-workers or executives when trying to resolve a communication or marketing issue:

  • What is the main problem you want to solve?
  • What would you like us to do?
  • Why is it important to do this?

Questions like these can help you keep the discussion centered on the “why” and the “what” without immediately jumping to the “how.” As shown in the beginning of this article, the “how” seems to be where clients and communicators get bogged down.

How would this framework help you, Ragan readers? What “Ask Me 3” questions would you ask?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to Ragan.com and PR Daily. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com. This post first ran on Ragan in 2016.

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