This article is advice on how to report on anything. It is written for reporters but it applies as well to PR practitioners, especially the first guideline — “Don’t go in cold.” There is an old saying attributed to Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Understanding a topic in depth before reporting it is essential to grasping subtle details. The second and third rules are equally important — find a guide and go in with a guiding question. A guide knows where to look. A guiding question integrates one’s investigation.
There is no excuse for failing to be prepared when learning a client’s business — especially in the internet age. We have a policy in our offices when starting a new account of asking the client for all available documents about their business — brochures, PowerPoint presentations, white papers, etc. We ask clients for everything — whether material seems relevant or not. It is only after digesting this information and searching the internet that we interview the client. By then we know what we don’t know and we know what to ask and we’re ready to work with a guide through the organization.
Packer’s rules are worth memorizing.