If, as is often the case, you are preoccupied with comm-
unications tactics instead of working a plan to actively
pursue those outside audience behaviors that stop you
from achieving your objectives, the answer is yes.
Fortunately, it's no big deal making the switch to a public
relations problem-solving sequence that works. Simply
accept 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 those people
whose behaviors affect the organization, the public
relations mission is accomplished.
What this approach to public relations can do for
businesses, non-profits and associations, is help them
alter the perceptions, and thus behaviors of their most
important external audiences, those with the greatest
impact on their operations. This can make achieving
their objectives much easier, and much more likely.
Here's how it could work for you.
Sit down and list those outside audiences of yours
whose behaviors can damage your organization's
prospects. Then, put them in the order of how severe
their impacts are, and we'll work on #1 on that list.
First objective is to create a public relations goal. So,
because it's likely there are negative perceptions out there,
you and your cohorts must meet with members of that
target audience and interact with them. Ask many
questions such as "What do you know about us? Have
you had any kind of contact with us? What have you
heard about our products or services?"
And while you're asking those questions, keep your eyes
and ears peeled for evasive or hesitant answers. And
also for negatives like inaccuracies, untruths,
misconceptions, hurtful rumors and false assumptions.
Your public relations goal can now be established using
the responses you just gathered. And that goal will be the
specific perception you wish to alter, usually leading to
the behavior change you really want. For example, goals
like, correct that inaccuracy, clearup that misconception,
or squash that hurtful rumor once and for all.
What you need to know most about your new public
relations goal is, how do I get from here to there, and
what action program will be most appropriate? Your
strategy will give you the answer. But you have only
three choices when it comes to strategies for opinion
or perception matters.
Reinforce existing opinion, change it, or create
perception/opinion where none exists. But make certain
the strategy you select clearly fits your public relations goal.
Obviously, you would not select the "reinforce it" strategy
option when your goal is to change a damaging rumor.
Writing, like it or not, is the next challenge. You need a
message carefully prepared to alter your key target
audience's perception. But writing it is no walk in the park.
The message must not only be corrective and crystal-clear,
it must also be compelling if it is to move your target
audience member's perception in your direction - a must,
if those desired behaviors are to come about.
Like the military officer calling in artillery fire during
combat, you must call in your communications tactics to
carry your message to its target, the members of your
The arsenal is full of such tactics ranging from personal
contacts, group briefings, press releases and speeches to
emails, letters-to-the-editor, brochures, celebrity
appearances and many, many others.
The only caution here is, check carefully that each tactic
you choose has a proven record for reaching people like
those who make up your target audience.
It won't be long before urgent questions are raised.
"How are we doing? Are we making any headway towards our goal?"
It would be ideal if your budget could accommodate the
considerable costs of professional opinion surveys to
answer those questions. However, as you did at the start
of the program, you can again monitor perceptions among
members of your target audience by asking the very same
questions you used the first time around.
But now, you will watch carefully for indications that
your message and communications tactics are moving
audience perceptions in your direction.
You can always provide a boost to the effort by adding
new tactics to the mix as well as increasing their frequencies.
And check your message again to insure its impact and
What you will have accomplished is the timely use of the
fundamental realities of public relations. In this case, to
salvage an unsatisfactory PR program so that it now
delivers the external audience behaviors you need to help
you reach your 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.
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