Let’s play 20 questions

It’s cliché, but it’s true: the beginning of new client relationship is a crucial time period. For PR professionals, it’s a time when we work fast and furiously to absorb as much information as possible while simultaneously creating a written plan for success. (And, yes, that should be a written plan for reasons I will touch on later.)

While this honeymoon time may be second nature for seasoned communications professionals, I know it was a learning process for me when I first started at our agency. That being said, for those who haven’t gone through the onboarding process many times, or at all, I like to think of it as a time to answer all the basic who, what, when, where, why and how questions. See my explanations below for why these questions are key to building a client relationship that benefits both partners.


Who will be the main point of contact?

If there are multiple departments in the business, who oversees which parts?

Who has to give final approval before something is considered complete?

Who is the public-facing spokesperson?


What is the background of the client’s company?

What does the client consider its unique differentiators compared to its competitors?

What tough questions does the client have trouble answering for stakeholders?


When will you routinely meet or touch base?

When will you provide updates of your work and successes, i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually?


Where are each of your businesses located?

Where does the client define its territory, i.e. local, regional, national or international?


Why are you working together?


How do you and the client measure success the same?

Conversely, how might you measure it differently?

How will you achieve this success?

As I stated above, there will most likely be more probing questions that come after you ask these standard ones, but these should cover the basics. There is a lot to digest in the beginning of a client relationship, so don’t fret if it seems chaotic at times. However, collecting as much information as possible in the beginning will help it level out quickly and get you on the path to working toward communication success together.