OK, as a manager, your goal is to show a profit for your
business unit, or meet certain expectations of your
association membership, or achieve your non-profit's
operating objective. In each case, you'll need public
relations activity that creates behavior change among
your key outside audiences. Behavior change that leads
directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
Here's how you can make it happen. Accept the fact that
the right PR really can alter individual perception and
lead to those changed behaviors you need.
Then resolve to do something positive about the
behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours
that MOST affect your operation.
In particular, create the kind of external stakeholder
behavior change that leads directly to achieving your
managerial objectives. You'll be able to pull this off when
you persuade those key outside folks to your way of
thinking, and then move them to take actions that allow
your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Here's the blueprint showing you how to manage this
kind of public relations. People act on their own
perception of the facts before them, which leads to
predictable behaviors about which something can be done.
When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by
reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the
very people whose behaviors affect the organization the
most, the public relations mission is accomplished.
But you'll find that you will need a lot more than news
releases, brochures and special events to get a satisfactory
return on your PR investment.
Here are some of the results business, non-profit and
association managers can expect from this kind of public
relations. New proposals for strategic alliances and
joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; membership
applications on the rise; community service and sponsorship
opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded
feedback channels, and even new thoughtleader and special
Before long, you should see customers making repeat
purchases; prospects reappearing; stronger relationships
with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare
communities; improved relations with government agencies
and legislative bodies, and perhaps even capital givers or
specifying sources looking your way.
A word of caution here because you certainly want your
most important outside audiences to really perceive your
operations, products or services in a positive light. Be sure
that your PR staff is really on board for the whole effort.
Reassure yourself that they accept the basic truth that
perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help
or hurt your unit.
Sit down and review the PR blueprint carefully with
your staff, especially regarding how you will gather and
monitor perceptions by questioning members of your most
important outside audiences. Questions like these: how
much do you know about our organization? How much do
you know about our services or products and employees?
Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased
with the how things went? Have you experienced problems
with our people or procedures?
Clearly, IF the budget is available, you can depend on
professional survey people to handle the perception monitoring
phases of your program. But fortunately, your PR people are
also in the perception and behavior business and can pursue the
same objective: identify untruths, false assumptions,
unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any
other negative perception that might translate into hurtful
When you set your public relations goal, remember that you
need one that addresses the problems that appeared during
your key audience perception monitoring. Probably, your
new goal will call for straightening out that dangerous
misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing
something about that awful rumor.
As day follows night, goals need strategies to show you
how to get there. But you have just three strategic choices
when it comes to handling a perception or opinion challenge:
create perception where there may be none, change the
perception, or reinforce it. Unfortunately, selecting a bad
strategy will taste like anchovy paste on your scones, so be
certain the new strategy fits well with your new public
relations goal. For example, you don't want to select "change"
when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
How you structure your corrective message is crucial because
persuading an audience to your way of thinking is awfully
hard work. Especially when you're looking for words that are
compelling, persuasive, believable AND clear and factual.
Hard work, but a must if you are to correct a perception by
shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the
desired behaviors. Review your message with your
communications specialists for its impact and persuasiveness.
Sounds obvious, but in order to carry your words to the
attention of your target audience, you need to select the precise
communications tactics most likely to reach them. Fortunately,
you can pick from dozens of available tactics. From speeches,
facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings,
media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many
others. Be darn certain that the tactics you pick are known to
reach folks just like your audience members.
When you think about it, the credibility of your message can
depend on how you deliver it. So, try introducing it to smaller
gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications
such as news releases or talk show appearances.
Before long, you'll need to produce a progress report, which
means it's probably time for you and your PR folks to get back
out in the field for a second perception monitoring session with
members of your external audience. You can use the same
questions used in the first benchmark session, but now you must
stay alert for signs that your communications tactics have
worked and that the negative perception is being altered in
If things aren't moving fast enough for you, matters can
always be accelerated with a broader selection of communications
tactics AND increased frequencies.
Because people act upon their perceptions of the facts they
hear about you and your operation, you really need a public
relations blueprint like this. Reason being you have little choice
but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by
doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external
audiences of yours to actions you desire.
Please feel free to publish this article and resource box
in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website.
A copy would be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net.
Robert A. Kelly ? 2004.
Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks to business, non-profit and
association managers about using the fundamental premise of public
relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has been DPR,
Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR,
Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communi-
cations, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press
secretary, The White House. He holds a bachelor of science degree
from Columbia University, major in public relations.