Can your PR do something positive about the behaviors
of those outside audiences that most affect your business,
non-profit or association?
Can your PR deliver external stakeholder behavior change
-- the kind that leads directly to achieving your managerial
Can your PR persuade those important outside folks to
your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that
help your department, division or subsidiary succeed?
Or does the money you spend on public relations pretty
much buy personnel mentions in the newspaper and product
plugs on radio talk shows?
If you want the real thing - the public relations performance
described above - start with this reality: 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.
First, look at the results that could come your way. Capital
givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way;
fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;
prospects interested in doing business with you; membership
applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat
purchases; politicians and legislators starting to view you as
a key member of the business, non-profit or association
communities; welcome bounces in show room visits; higher
employee retention rates, and even community leaders
beginning to seek you out.
If you're a business, non-profit or association manager, and
you're serious about wringing every last benefit out of your
public relations budget, here, for starters, are two suggestions:
list those outside audiences of yours who behave in ways that
help or hinder you in achieving your objectives. Then prioritize
them by impact severity. And let's address the target audience
you decide is number one.
In all likelihood, you haven't gathered data that tells you
what most members of that key outside audience think about
your organization. However, you would have these data if
you had been regularly sampling those perceptions.
But now, in the absence of a large professional survey budget,
you and your colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions
yourselves. Meet with members of that outside audience and
interact by asking questions like "Have you ever met anyone
from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience?
How much do you know about our services or products?"
Watch carefully for negative statements, especially evasive or
hesitant replies. And stay alert for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors.
You'll need to correct any that you discover because experience
shows they usually lead to negative behaviors.
After correcting such aberrations before they morph into hurtful
behaviors, you now select the specific perception to be altered,
and that becomes your public relations goal.
As luck would have it, a PR goal without a strategy to show
you how to get there, is like pasta without the meat sauce. That's
why you must select one of three strategies especially designed
to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or
change existing perception, or reinforce it. And take care that
your new goal and the new strategy match each other. After all,
you wouldn't want to select "change existing perception"
when current perception is just right suggesting a "reinforce"
Now here's where talent comes in. Your PR team must put
those writing skills to work and prepare a compelling
message carefully designed to alter your key target audience's
perception, as called for by your public relations goal.
You might think about combining your corrective message
with another newsworthy announcement of a new product,
service or employee - or including it in another presentation
-- thus lending credibility by downplaying the correction.
Still, the corrective message must possess clarity. It must be
clear about what perception needs clarification or correction,
and why. Your facts must be truthful and your position must
be persuasive, logically explained and believable if it is to
hold the attention of members of that target audience, and
really move perception your way.
Actually picking the "beasts of burden" - the tools you will
count on to carry your persuasive new thoughts to the attention
of that external audience - will be the least challenging part
of your campaign.
You'll find a huge collection of communications tactics
available such as letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases
and speeches. Or, possibly radio and newspaper interviews,
personal contacts, newsletters, group briefings and many others.
But again, be cautious about the tactics you select. Can they
demonstrate a record of reaching the same people as those
you call your target stakeholders?
Without any question, the subject of progress will arise. And
you'll want to be ready for such queries by again monitoring
perceptions among your target audience members. But here's
the difference the second time around. Using questions similar
to those used during your earlier monitoring session, you will
now watch carefully for indications that audience perceptions
are beginning to move in your direction. That spells progress.
I should note that we are fortunate in the PR business that we
can always put the pedal to the metal by employing additional communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.
Finally, strive to sharpen your focus on the very groups of
outside people - your key external stakeholders -- who play a
major role in just how successful a manager you will be.
Then use a workable blueprint such as that outlined at the
beginning of this article. A plan that helps you persuade those
important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then
moves them to take actions that lead to the success of your
department, division or subsidiary.
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 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