Public Relations
Nov 13, 2017

Asking Questions – An Important Tool to Use in PR

Recently, I asked the students in my PR190 Media Publicity Writing class at San Jose State University this question: 

When you start your first PR or communications job, what is the one thing that you should remember to do?

I had expected to get an answer of “It’s important to always ask questions in meetings. Speak up! Don’t be a mouse!” because that’s what I had been saying in class.

None of the students gave that answer on the quiz. Yikes!

While I didn’t see the answer I was expecting on the quiz, I was struck by the fact that they all had retained a different piece of information. And, those answers were correct–every single one of them!

A few of the students from my PR190 Media Publicity class at San Jose State University. In front, from left to right: Kevin Tran, Jazmin Eusebio. Middle row: Silas Strzelecki, Allison Covey. Back row: Ana Love, David Ngo, Paige Frierson

Here’s a look at the PR students’ answers:

  • The most important thing when first starting in PR is to maintain your reputation and build relationships with journalists. These journalists will follow wherever your PR career will take you so it’s important to establish a good reputation and work ethic. Valerie
  • Always remember what is newsworthy and how to earn media attention for your service or product. Also remember that writing is a key element in public relations and the art of creatively telling your story is vital. Jasmine
  • It’s important to do research before communicating so that there is no false information. Miranda
  • One thing to remember when starting a PR or communications job is to always stay on top of new trends and topics that might concern the company. One thing that I have learned from classes is that if the CEO gives you a project to work on, that takes priority, especially if it deals with a client. In today’s world, you can’t post about something 20 minutes after it happens because someone else has already beaten you to it. Allison
  • The first thing you should remember to do as a PR or communications professional is to remain ethical. Jazmin
  • When I start my first PR communications job, I should remember legal guidelines and my ethics.  Paige
  • Build relationships and do your research. Ana
  • When starting an entry-level PR or communications job, it is crucial to become knowledgeable about the products or services your client or company is providing in order to properly represent them. David
  • Speak up and talk to your boss if there is a possible mistake. Silas
  • You should always make sure your writing is approved by your CEO or editor before publishing it. Kevin
  • The one thing to remember when starting out as a new communications professional would be to go meetings prepared and have a creative brief or set of questions ready at all times. Malya

One of my students, Kevin, did hear part of the answer I was looking for and he tweeted it:

What’s the Big Deal?

So why is asking questions hard for people to do? Asking questions is an important part of our critical thinking process, and our learning process.

Everyone listens and hears differently, which may be why it’s hard for people to communicate well with each other.

So asking questions helps everyone in a conversation to connect and get on the same page. Remember how toddlers ask lots of “why is the sky blue” questions? We need to adopt that same curiosity in our work meetings!

Here’s how asking questions can have an impact – from

  • Foster critical thinking skills
  • Boost self-confidence
  • Enhance creativity
  • Strengthen relationships/partnerships
  • Establish trust
  • Exercise your memory
  • Develop oral communication skills
  • Encourage good listening
  • Help you become invested in the problem
  • Encourage others to ask questions
  • Spark lively and productive discussions
  • Open your mind to other opinions/beliefs
  • Protect you from making mistakes
  • Make work more productive
  • Make solutions more effective
  • Lead you to new discoveries
  • Help you make better choices/decisions

Bottom line–don’t be a mouse in meetings.  Ask questions to clarify what you’ve heard the other person say. Ask “why” as if you were a two-year-old. Your questions will improve the conversation overall and you will show that person that you are a critical thinker!