You want to sell your products or services, and that means
good money management, top quality products or services,
and hard work on your part. But, for REAL success, the
icing on the cake is public relations.
Here's why. People act on their perception of the facts about
you; those perceptions lead to certain, predictable behaviors;
and, best of all, something can be done about both that will
lead to achieving your objectives.
First, public relations creates, changes or reinforces public
opinion -- you know, all those perceptions we just talked
Then it reaches, persuades and moves-to-actions-you-desire
those very people whose behaviors affect your business.
We're talking about actions like new customer development,
retention of long-time patrons and increased product purchases.
Now, when you can actually see those behaviors you want
so badly (hopefully matching the behaviors you said upfront
you wanted), the public relations effort is complete, and a
How do you pull this off?
If you follow a game plan like this one, you should rank in
order-of-importance those audiences with an interest in
your organization, often referred to as stakeholders or
"publics." They would include customers, prospects,
media, the business community and local thought-leaders
as well as a number of other interested groups.
What Do They Think of You?
You should interact with those audiences and gather
their impressions of your organization, in particular, areas
where problems may be brewing. Ask questions. Notice
any negativity? Misconceptions? Inaccuracies? Rumors?
This is information gathering, opinion sampling, informal
polling, if you will, but essential to any public relations effort.
If resources are available, a modest opinion poll of the #1
priority audience also would be helpful.
How Much Behavioral Change is Needed?
Well, with opinion sampling of one kind or another underway,
it's a good time to focus on any negative perceptions you
discovered. Once they're identified and understood, a marker
can be set down setting the degree of behavioral change you
would like and that realistically can be expected and monitored
in an agreed-upon time frame..
This becomes the goal against which the public relations
program will finally be measured.
Create, Change or Reinforce Opinion?
Now, should those key audience perceptions be created from
scratch, nudged in one direction or another, or simply
reinforced? An important decision, because it will influence
the direction, content and tone of all of your communications.
Make it carefully.
The Persuasive Message
Once that decision is made, it's time to prepare messages
tailored to each audience that, while providing details about
your products and services, indirectly address those
problem areas that came up during the information gathering
meetings. Then, while you do the persuasive messages
needed to bring those folks around, be guided by your behavior
modification goal as well as the perception changes
needed to achieve it.
Reaching Your Audience
How will you communicate each message to its audience?
How will you reach these people? Your choices include
face-to-face meetings, briefings, speeches, news releases,
news announcement luncheons, emailings, media interviews,
facility tours, special promotional events, a brochure, and a
variety of other communications tactics.
And don't forget special event exposures as a means for reaching
those target audiences with your messages. They usually
make news and include activities such as open houses, roadshows,
awards ceremonies, trade shows and contests.
Media That Target Your Audience
It sounds elementary, but selecting the right media to carry your
messages demands that you be certain that each communications
tool zeros in directly on the target audience. Example: little
sense in using ride-time (rush hour) radio appearances if
you're trying to reach retirees.
Signs of Improvement
So, how will you know whether your efforts are actually
changing perceptions (and behaviors) for the better? As time
passes, experience tells us that you will begin to notice
increased awareness of your business and its role in the
marketplace; a growing receptiveness to your messages by
customers; increased public perception of the role your
organization plays in its industry and in the community,
as well as increasing numbers of prospects.
Achieving The Goal
To track actual results, you must speak once again - and
on a regular basis -- with people among each of your key
audiences. And also by monitoring print and broadcast media
for mentions of your messages or viewpoints.
Each of these indicators will reflect how local feelings
about your organization are changing. In turn, this will
allow you to adjust your communications tactics in pursuit
of the perceptions and behaviors you seek
The effort is worth it. Done correctly, when public relations
results in altered perceptions and modified behaviors among
groups of people important to your organization, you're
talking about nothing less than its survival.
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 ? 2003.
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.