During meet-and-greet sessions, I am always asked this question.
“If we hire your company as our consultant, what would be your strategy to help us ……?”
The blank part could be any of these:
- raise awareness about our brand.
- increase sales.
- promote positive corporate culture.
- ….and so on.
I am sure when you go to job interviews, you get these kind of questions too.
My answer has always been the same: I am unable to answer that adequately until I understand the company and industry better and been given a briefing on its challenges, KPIs, strategic and business goals and its immediate and mid-term marketing direction.
For example, if the company wants to promote its new e-commerce platform — for the sake of this post, let’s call it ShopNow — I need to know what’s happening in the e-commerce landscape, how is ShopNow better than its competitors, what is it that ShopNow want to achieve first:
(a) Get more vendors to sign up as sellers?
(b) Get more people to come to ShopNow and browse?
(c) Create word-of-mouth for ShopNow so that people start talking about it and recognize it as a brand?
(d) Get more people to buy from ShopNow vendors?
There is no blanket strategy that can cover everything; and there is no on-the-spot answers that can adequately cover these either. I think anyone who tries to answer this off-the-cuff is doing the company a disservice as they would not have enough information to answer it adequately. Or, they will use big words to try to appear clever. Listen carefully and you will realize that these are just words.
On the other hand, you, too, should not be asking this question in order to assess an agency’s suitability for your company. You can ask them for their opinion on where they think the industry is headed (this will tell you if the agency has taken the trouble to at least research the industry you are in) or what the agency think is the biggest challenge in creating brand recognition in a market where new products are born every second (this will tell you if they are aware of market conditions that consumers are facing every day). These will give you a taste of their strategic hat and whether they are genuinely interested in the company (not just in the money that you can pay them!).
When formulating a communications strategy that supports brand growth and marketing KPIs, writing articles and getting the press to publish it or organizing press events are actually a very small component of the whole machinery. I’ve had clients coming to me and saying things like “Agency A came up with a very good idea and proposed that we do a roundtable with the press,” and I always have to pull them back gently and ask “But what is the topic that we want to discuss at the roundtable? Why would this topic be interesting to the intended audience? What do we want to achieve from it? How does this roundtable support the overall business goals?”
Lots of people are interested in the “what can we do” but not enough on the “why do we do?”. As a result, communications team is always seen to be working alone or doing its own thing instead of working together with the marketing and executive teams. More often than not this leads to communications department becoming a service provider or a “vendor” to the marketing team (“Hello Comms Dept, please write a press release for our new product.”) rather than a consultative, strategic partner (“Hello Comms Dept, can we meet up to discuss about the launch and publicity strategy for our new product?”).
Obviously there are many ways to skin a cat. However, asking “What would be your strategy to help us ……?” should not be the magic question upon which you decide if an agency (or potential employee) is right for you.
Focus on the WHY, not on the WHAT. Asking the right questions are just as important as getting the right answers.