You do if you're a business, non-profit or association
manager with important external stakeholders whose
behaviors affect your department, division or subsidiary
In your own best interests, here's what you'd better be
doing about them.
Accept the fact that the right PR actually CAN alter
individual perception that leads to the kinds of changed
behaviors that can help you succeed.
That confidence will position you to do something positive
about those behaviors. Specifically, to create actual
behavior change among your key outside audiences which
leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
But is there a roadmap available that will get everyone working
towards the same external audience behaviors, and that
insures that your organization's public relations effort stays
There sure is, and the blueprint goes like this: 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.
What sort of results would you expect from such an approach?
You could see membership applications on the rise; new
proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds
in showroom visits; enhanced activist group relations, and
expanded feedback channels; as well as community service
and sponsorship opportunities; not to mention new thoughtleader
and special event contacts.
As the effort takes hold, you might see improved relations
with government agencies and legislative bodies, stronger
relationships with the educational, labor, financial and
healthcare communities; prospects starting to work with you;
customers making repeat purchases; and even capital givers
or specifying sources looking your way.
The people running PR for you - agency, staff or freelance --
really have to be dedicated team members and committed
to you, as the senior project manager, to the PR blueprint
and its implementation, starting with target audience
perception monitoring itself.
Think for a moment just how crucial it is that your
most important outside audiences really perceive your
operations, products or services in a positive light? Then
question your PR people to assure yourself that they buy
into that notion wholeheartedly. Be especially careful
that they accept the reality that perceptions almost always
lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Take the time to go over the PR blueprint in detail with
your team. Discuss your plan for monitoring and gathering
perceptions by questioning members of your most
important outside audiences. Review 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?
It's obvious that professional survey people can handle
the perception monitoring phases of your program,
IF the budget is available. However, remember that 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.
Be careful as you set your public relations goal. You
will need one that is well-defined, and one that
responds to the aberrations that appeared during your
key audience perception monitoring. The new goal
could call for straightening out that dangerous
misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or
doing something about that damaging rumor.
As night follows day, your new goal will need a strategy
to show you how to get there. Fortunately, you will
have just three strategic choices for handling a
perception or opinion challenge: create perception where
there may be none, change the perception, or reinforce it.
Unfortunately, a bad strategy pick will taste like sauteed
onions on your pecan pie. So be sure the new strategy
fits well with your new public relations goal. For
instance, you don't want to select "change" when the
facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
Because bringing people's minds around to your way
of thinking is a tough assignment, your PR team must
get busy immediately crafting the needed corrective
language. Words that are compelling, persuasive and
believable AND clear and factual. You must do this if
you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion
towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors.
Review your message for impact and persuasiveness with
your communications specialists. Then, carefully select
the communications tactics most likely to carry your words
to the attention of your target audience. You can pick from
dozens that are available. From speeches, facility tours,
emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media
interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others.
But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach
folks just like your audience members.
You might introduce your message to smaller gatherings
rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news
releases or talk show appearances. Reason being that the
credibility of a message can occasionally depend on its
delivery method being acceptable to each audience.
Everyone will want to see progress reports. For you and
your PR colleagues, they sound the signal for you and your
PR folks to return to the field for a second perception
monitoring session with members of your external audience.
Using many of the same questions used in the first benchmark
session, you must now stay alert for signs that the bad news
perception is being altered in your direction.
Things not moving fast enough? You can always accelerate
matters with more communications tactics and increased
Clearly, those important outside audiences constitute market
segments that are exclusively yours, and you must do
something positive about the behaviors of those outside
audiences that MOST affect your organization. Thus, they
are segments you will need to persuade to your way of thinking,
then move to take actions that help your department, division
or subsidiary 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.
Visit: http://www.prcommentary.com; bobkelly@TNI.net