It really is powerful when a business, non-profit or
association manager uses public relations to alter the
individual perception of members of its key outside
audiences, thus beginning the process of changing their
And truly powerful when s/he actually persuades many
of those key outside folks to the manager's way of
thinking, helping to move them to take actions that allow
the manager's department, division or subsidiary
What's happening in our example, is that managers are
using public relations to do something positive about the
behaviors of the very outside audiences of theirs that
MOST affect their operation.
ESPECIALLY "warm and fuzzy" when such power
creates the kind of external stakeholder behavior change
that leads directly to achieving the manager's most
Wouldn't it be nice, you say, if managers had available
the precise public relations blueprint they need designed
to get all their team members and organizational
colleagues working towards the same external stakeholder
Yes it would, so here is a PR blueprint plan along those
lines: People act on their own perception of the facts
before them, which leads o 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
The word powerful seems appropriate when results like
these start to crop up: new proposals for strategic
alliances and joint ventures; capital givers or specifying
sources looking your way; a rebound in showroom visits;
membership applications on the rise; fresh community
service and sponsorship opportunities; new thoughtleader
and special event contacts; improved relations with
government agencies and legislative bodies; prospects
starting to work with you; customers making repeat
purchases; and even stronger relationships with the
educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities.
The division of labor will be a prime concern to you.
Just who is going to do the work anyway? Will it be
regular public relations staff? Or people sent to you by
a higher authority? Or possibly a PR agency crew?
Regardless of where they come from, they must be
committed to you as the senior project manager,
to the PR blueprint and its implementation, starting with
key audience perception monitoring.
Something to keep your eye on. Be sure that your team
members really believe deeply why it's SO important to
know how your most important outside audiences perceive
your operations, products or services. Be certain they buy
the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors
that can help or hurt your unit.
Invest some time in reviewing your PR blueprint with your
PR team, especially your plan for monitoring and gathering
perceptions by questioning members of your most important
outside audiences. Questions like these: how much do you
know about our organization? Have you had prior contact
with us and were you pleased with the interchange? How
much do you know about our services or products and
employees? Have you experienced problems with our people
If your budget will allow, you can use professional survey
counsel for the perception monitoring phases of your program.
But remember that 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 behaviors.
Now you must establish your public relations goal. This is your
chance to do something about the most serious distortions you
discovered during your key audience perception monitoring.
Your public relations goal might call for straightening out that
dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy,
or stopping that potentially fatal rumor in its tracks.
To achieve success, you need a solid strategy, one that clearly
shows you how to proceed. To keep things simple, note that
there are only three strategic options available to you when it
comes to handling a perception and opinion challenge. Change
existing perception, create perception where there may be none,
or reinforce it. Of course, the wrong strategy pick will taste like
spoiled rhubarb pie so be certain the new strategy fits well
with your new public relations goal. Naturally, you don't want
to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
This is your chance to share a powerful corrective message with
members of your target audience. But persuading an audience to
your way of thinking is no easy task. Which is why your PR folks
must come up with words that are not only compelling, persuasive
and believable, but clear and factual. Only in this way will you
be able to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your
point of view, leading to the behaviors you are targeting.
Run a message draft by your communications specialists to be
sure its impact and persuasiveness measure up. Then select the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to
the attention of your target audience. You can pick from dozens
that are available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and
brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters,
personal meetings and many others. But be sure that the tactics
you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience
You might consider unveiling the message in presentations
before smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile tactics
such as news releases. Reason is, the credibility of a message
can depend on the credibility of its delivery method.
The subject of progress reports will come up soon enough. And
this should alert you and your PR team to get back out in the
field and start work on a second perception monitoring session
with members of your external audience. You'll want to use
many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session.
Difference this time is that you will be watching very carefully
for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your
If things slow down, try speeding them up with more
communications tactics and increased frequencies.
By now you should know this powerful reality at the core of
public relations: the right PR can alter individual perception
leading to changed behaviors which, in turn, lead directly to
achieving your managerial objectives.
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.
Word count is 1160 including guidelines and resource box.
Robert A. Kelly ? 2005.
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.