Sure, as tactics usually presented to business, non-profit
and association managers, special events, brochures and
news releases are fine.
But they're not the high-octane PR firepower you need to
deliver growth results like new proposals for strategic
alliances and joint ventures; accelerating prospect contacts;
rising membership applications; customers making repeat
purchases; rebounds in showroom visits, or capital givers
and specifying sources looking your way.
As you add such firepower, you should see stronger
relationships with educational, labor, financial and healthcare
interests; new community service and sponsorship
opportunities; improved relations with government agencies
and legislative bodies; enhanced activist group relations, and
expanded feedback channels, not to mention new
thoughtleader and special event contacts.
And here's the key that can unlock such a bonanza, the
underlying premise 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.
There seems little doubt that you as a manager work hard to
insure that your most important outside audiences see your
operations, products or services in the best possible light.
Which is why you need to assure yourself that your PR
people are totally on board this effort. Be especially careful
that they accept the reality that perceptions almost always
lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Because you will need to monitor perception by questioning
members of your most important outside audiences, take
some time to review the PR blueprint in detail with your
staff. Consider 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
interchange? Have you experienced problems with our
people or procedures?
You have a choice as to who handles the perception
monitoring phases of your program. Of course professional
survey people can do the job, IF the budget is available.
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 behaviors.
Now, let's talk about your public relations goal. You need
one that speaks to the "problematics" that showed up during
your key audience perception monitoring. In all probability,
it will call for straightening out that dangerous misconception,
or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about
that damaging rumor.
Yes, your strategy now will show you how to get there. But
remember that you have only 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. As luck would have it, a bad strategy pick will
taste like sauteed prunes, 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"
Here you must persuade an audience to your way of thinking by
creating just the right, corrective language. Which is why we're
looking for words that are compelling, persuasive and believable
AND clear and factual. This is a must if you are to straighten out
a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, thus
leading to the behaviors you desire.
Now we pick out the communications tactics most likely to
carry your words to the attention of your target audience.
Get input from your communications specialists and review
your message for impact and persuasiveness. There are dozens
of available tactics ranging from speeches, facility tours, emails
and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,
newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Just be sure
that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your
Unfortunate but true, the credibility of a message can depend
on how it's delivered. So you might think about introducing it
to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile
communications such as news releases or talk show appearances.
When the topic of a progress report is suggested, you know it's
time for you and your PR folks to return to the field for a second
perception monitoring session with members of your external
audience. The same questions you used in the first benchmark
session will do nicely once again. But this time, you'll be watching
carefully for signs that your communications tactics have worked
and that the negative perception is being altered in your direction.
If patience seems in short supply, things can always be gunned
with a broader selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.
High-octane PR firepower makes all the difference once you
decide to do something positive about the behaviors of those
important outside audiences of yours that most affect your
You'll do it by creating external stakeholder behavior change
leading directly to achieving your managerial objectives. And
by persuading those key outside folks to your way of thinking,
thus moving them to take actions that allow your business,
non-profit or association to succeed.
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.