Public relations (PR) practitioners use a variety of tools in the course of doing their jobs, with the press or news release possibly being the most used tool. One PR tool, the Q&A (question & answer), is used less often, yet it can be highly effective. In fact, it has been my experience that, at least in business-to-business PR, the Q&A is valued by editors and reporters as it provides straightforward information about companies, products or services. Clients should value them, too, because, when well-crafted, they lead a reader through and to the exact message the communicator wants to deliver.
Addressing Common Inquiries
When consumers want to learn more about you and your company, an effective way to help them with this is through a Q&A or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. But what are these pages for exactly? As this article by Allen Hall PR explains, these pages are essentially edited transcripts of an interview that “includes both the interviewer’s direct questions and the interviewee’s response in written format.” The article further explains that this format is often preferable to that of a narrative story, as they are simplistic and written in a “to-the-point fashion.” The article also goes into detail with seven well-explained steps on how one should approach and write a Q&A page. The most poignant points of it being that you should think about the final product and desired message before conducting the interview, type out the entire transcript before editing, arrange the questions in an order that makes sense, and revisit the page after you have written it. Thinking of open-ended questions will allow for more in-depth responses, and editing a full transcript is easier than a partial one. Also, having questions arranged in a meaningful way leads to efficient navigation, and revisiting the page after its completion allows you to approach it in is entirety with a refreshed perspective.
According to this article by Search Engine Journal, the development of technologies such as voice search, mobile search, and personal/home assistants and speakers has led to the resurgence of the Q&A. This is because all of these innovations “rely on pre-results and can be targeted specifically with FAQ pages.” Search Engine Journal adds further information to that mentioned by Allen Hall PR when it states that an effective FAQ page “reflects your audience’s needs, covers a broad range of intent, is frequently update with new data, drives viewers to important pages on the site, and showcases expertise and authority within your niche.” The article then goes on to showcase 25 examples of effective FAQ pages.
Putting it All Together
So, what goes into an effective Q&A? Based on my own experience, and after reviewing both articles, the answer to this question is that you should approach this with a large-picture perspective, create questions for an interview that are open-ended and address the common needs of the audience. Use the opportunity to lead the audience to the message you want to convey. As part of this, ensure that your questions and the edited responses are to the point. When done with correctly, Q&A used for PR are informative and instill a sense of trust in your audience while also showcasing expertise and authority on the subject.