Primary research on the client
Here are some ideas on information gathering adapted from a book about advertising, called Write Great Ads, by Erica Levy Klein:
Keep this three-part list as a crib sheet, and use it to impress a client (and your boss) as you conduct a fact- finding interview to prepare you for a PR writing project. It's guaranteed to help you develop a useful list of "Key Ideas" as you consider a PR plan for a product, service or cause:
Ask the client questions about the product you are being hired to promote. This list of intelligent questions can be adapted for clients who deliver services rather than produce products.
Ask the client questions about the audience for the company's business in the past, or for the product or service now being developed.
Request the client's materials to review for policy research and general background. These can include:
How can this list help you? Okay, imagine you're coming to work one rainy morning... it's 9:40 and you're late because you just missed the bus... the one that threw a big sheet of water all over your slacks (you're still wet from the knees down)... you're feeling a little shaky because you partied too late last night... and there's a note on your chair that the boss wants to see you at 9:30 "sharp!" You walk into her office and see that she's with a new client -- someone who wants a marketing/PR campaign to promote her new product, a kind of artificial leather. You know nothing about artificial leather (or real leather, for that matter) and you're not really ready for this discussion. But you do have your notebook, and in your notebook you have the sheet entitled "Primary research on the client."
Use this information to make yourself -- and your boss -- and your agency -- look good! With this crib sheet, you can look and sound professional, as you interview the client about the product (or service) and the publics you are trying to reach. And you can conclude your part of the discussion by indicating all the other materials you will want so you can begin your work.
Then you're ready to do your Message Planner. With the notes you've taken from this interview, you'll have pages of Key Ideas, and you'll be able to go from the 5 W's directly to the Angle, and then on to the Message. In this class, most of the information you need for your PR writing is spoon-fed to you. In the real world, you will have to gather this information yourself. The above list will help you do just that.
Go on to the next page.