Because when it comes to public relations, non-believers can
produce a double-bummer -- missed opportunity AND a ton
of wasted money. It really is a shame because we do public
relations to change the behaviors of certain groups of people
important to the success of those very Doubting Thomases.
And speaking of non-believers, what's the real reason some
shy away from public relations? I believe it's because they
don't understand, or believe, the direct connection between
what public relations is capable of delivering and their need
to achieve specific business objectives.
So, what do we say to non-believers?
Surely it's not that difficult a concept to understand or accept?
People act on their perception of the facts; those perceptions
lead to certain behaviors; and something can be done about
those perceptions and behaviors that leads to achieving your
organization's objectives. That's pretty good!
Better yet, you can establish the degree of behavior change
you want, up front, then insist on getting that result before
you pronounce the public relations effort a success.
That way, you KNOW you're getting your money's worth.
But it gets better. How can you measure the results
of any activity more accurately than when you clearly achieve
the goal you set at the beginning of that activity? You can't.
It's pure success when you meet that goal.
Public relations is no different. The client/employer wants
our help in altering counterproductive perceptions among
key audiences which almost always change behaviors in a
way that helps him or her get to where they want to be.
But, the Doubting Thomases might ask, are we really qualified
to do that job?
I think yes, because everything we do is based on the same
realities -- people act on their perception of the facts, and
we can do something about those perceptions. So, when public
relations activity successfully creates, changes or reinforces
that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-
action those people whose behaviors affect the organization,
the public relations effort is a success.
In practice, you may want people to perceive your organization
more positively, thus strengthening its reputation. Or, you could
communicate a company's strengths to a target audience
leading them to a positive perception of the firm, in turn
leading to new investments in the company's shares.
I know our non-believers are not primarily interested in our
ability to communicate, paint images or schmooz with the media.
Nor are they especially fascinated with our efforts to identify
target audiences, set public relations goals and strategies,
write persuasive messages and select communications tactics.
What I believe they DO want is a change in the behaviors
of certain key audiences leading directly to the achievement
of their business objectives.
Which is why I continually stress that quality planning,
and the degree of behavioral change it produces, defines
the success or failure of a public relations program.
Done correctly, when public relations results in modified
behaviors among groups of people important to an organization,
we could be talking about nothing less than its survival.
But that means public relations professionals must modify
somebody's behavior if they are to help hit the objective
and earn a paycheck - I believe everything else is a means
to that end.
But, we can't let the Doubting Thomases off the hook without
reminders that some very basic but unattended perceptions may
be out there that could lead to very costly negative behaviors.
For example, if sales prospects are unaware of your product
or service, you will not get them as customers; if your
customers don't remain convinced of the value of your
product or service, you lose them; and if employees believe
you don't care about them, productivity suffers.
And on and on when still more audiences like citizens, journalists,
regulators, investors and legislators don't believe you.
So, what do I believe the unbelievers still want from us whether
they know it or not? I believe they want us to apply our special
skills in a way that helps them achieve their business objectives.
But no matter what strategic plan we create to solve a problem,
no matter what tactical program we put in place, at the end
of the day we must modify somebody's behavior for them if we
are to earn our money.
Which is why I say that when you measure our real
effectiveness, you will be fully satisfied with those public
relations results only when our "reach, persuade
and move-to-desired-action" efforts produce that visible
modificationin the behaviors of those people you wish to
influence. In my view, this is the central, strategic function of
public relations - the basic context in which we must operate.
As for the Doubting Thomases, I hope these remarks contain a
nugget or two that assists you in leading them to a better
understanding of how public relations works. Especially how
it can strengthen relationships with those important groups of
people - those target audiences whose perceptions and
behaviors can help or hinder the achievement of their business
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 ? 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 communications, 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.
Visit: http://www.prcommentary.com; bobkelly@TNI.net