It isn’t only in the public relations field that people try to predict public questions and how to respond to them. Most do this to prepare for a job interview, give a presentation to a potential client or delicately break some news to a loved one. This preparation shows others that you know what you’re talking about and reduces uneducated speculation and rumors.
The same idea applies to communication campaigns and stakeholder outreach efforts. Communication that answers questions before people have to ask is much easier, less time-consuming and less expensive than damage control later. So how do you predict what your audience will want to know and how to respond? Here are a few tips:
- Know your audience – Knowing your audience means knowing what is important to them, what motivates them and what they are sensitive about. Learning this through qualitative and quantitative research is ideal if your timeline, client and budget will allow. If not, it’s always helpful to talk to people who have worked with the same audience in the past (opinion leaders or your client) and to consult market research databases from companies like Scarborough.
- Brainstorm – After you have created your own list of questions and answers based on your research, you may want to get a group together that includes people close to the information and people who are not. Ask if you’ve missed anything and what the group thinks people will ask.
- Be honest – Nothing builds suspicion and distrust more than the perception that people are hiding or withholding information from you.
- Provide sources – Most audiences will want to know where your information came from. Be ready to provide that information.
- Choose the right approach – Decide ahead of time the best communications channels, timing and spokesperson to answer questions. It may be best communicated on a website or at a media briefing. Would it be better to release the information during the week, after a workday or in the morning? Knowing your audience is integral to choosing the right approach.
Creating a comprehensive FAQ that can be used in any communication channel is one way to preempt speculation, what else would you add?