The Art Of The Ask For Public Relations

Your success in part depends on your ability to master the ask.

You never know when you’ll learn something.

Eating lunch over the weekend at Mt. Snow, Vermont's summit lodge after a morning skiing, I got a lesson in the art of persusasion from a tow-headed, exuberant 8-year-old named Sara. Eavesdropping on Sara and her older sister Lisa’s conversation, I overheard Sara laying out their strategy to convince their ski instructor to take them on their favorite ski trail. Her plan was simple and brilliant: Ask the instructor enthusiastically if he would do so. And you know what? It worked. After they approached the instructor, he shortly returned asking who wanted to ski on that particular trail. Bet you know who yelled out that she did. All smiles, Sara turned to her sister and said, “I told you. You have to ask to get."

The art of the ask is something that adults have written books and articles about. One of those simple and profound truths, it often gets lost or misused in our adult need to overthink things. As PR professionals, who are supposedly communication experts, it’s nevertheless all too easy to muddy the waters and forget the ask.

PR, whether B2B or B2C, is a multi-headed beast since the profession serves multiple masters. The head master of course is the client, the person at the end of the day that a PR person needs to answer to and satisfy. That doesn’t mean you’re simply a “Yes” person to the client, doing his or her bidding, but that you offer judicious counsel. Like any good consultant, you recommend tactics necessary to satisfy a client's objectives.

Don’t think it’s a shoo-in. In posing recommendations, you need to ask for your client’s buy-in. Otherwise, there is no give and take or relationship. And in doing you, you need to exercise some finesse primarily by understanding your clien’ts style and the best way to make the ask. Do you try to make it the client’s idea? Do you do so assertively or more offhandedly? It all depends on the style of your client. But at the end of the day your success in part depends on your ability to master the ask.

Where PR gets extra tricky is that you have a hodgepodge of other folks to ask--be it reporters, bloggers, event coordinators, partners, associations and no doubt others. You need to get them all on your team if possible so that together you can meet your client’s objectives. Here too you need to be sensitive to the style and needs of the people you're working with.

Don't forget to ask wisely for what you need to effectively run a PR campaign. It could be your ticket to success.

What have you asked for that made your campaign more effective? I'd love to hear from you.

Wendy Marx is a B2B PR and marketing specialist at Marx Communications.

[Image: Flickr user Johan Røed]