Business, non-profit or association managers hurt their
own public relations results when they become
fascinated with PR tactics ? press releases, publications
and brochures and, particularly, fun-to-manage special
events ? while failing to plan for the perceptions and
behaviors of the very people who probably hold their
managerial success in their hands.
We're talking about those important outside audiences
whose behaviors most affect their departments, groups,
divisions or subsidiaries.
Obviously, some of the less sensitive among those
managers just don't get it ? the fact that the right public
relations alters individual perceptions leading to changed
behaviors among key external audience members and,
thus, the achievement of managerial objectives.
When they compound that oversight by not persuading
those awfully important outside folks to their way of
thinking, then moving them to take actions that allow
their units to succeed, bingo!, they badly hurt their PR
Needn't be the case. Take a moment and savor this
approach: 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 usually accomplished.
Look at what could come their way: fresh proposals
for strategic alliances and joint ventures; community
leaders beginning to seek you out; rising membership
applications; welcome bounces in show room visits;
prospects starting to do business with you; customers
making repeat purchases; and new approaches by
capital givers and specifying sources not to mention
politicians and legislators viewing you as a key
member of the business, non-profit or association
A few questions as to how this work might be assigned.
To an outside PR agency team? To folks assigned to
your operation? To your own public relations people?
Just realize that regardless of where they come from,
they need to be committed to you and your PR plan
beginning with key audience perception monitoring.
You should meet with your public relations team in
order to be certain that those assigned to you are clear on
why it's vital to know precisely how your most important
outside audiences perceive your operations, products or
services. They must accept the reality that perceptions
almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your
Discuss your PR operating plan with them, especially how
you will monitor and gather perceptions by questioning
members of your most important outside audiences. For
instance, how much do you know about our chief executive?
Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased
with the interchange? How much do you know about our
services or products and employees? Have you experienced
problems with our people or procedures?
Have no hesitation (other than budget) in using professional
survey firms in the perception monitoring phases of your
program. But remember that your PR people are also in the
perception and behavior business and can go after the same
objective: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded
rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative
perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.
The most damaging distortions you discovered during
your key audience perception monitoring will respond
to the right kind of PR goal by calling for straightening
out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that
gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor
as quickly as possible..
Big challenge here is selecting the right strategy. Namely,
a strategy that tells you how to move forward. Please
remember that there are just three strategic options available
to you when it comes to handling a perception and opinion
challenge. Change existing perception, create perception
where there may be none, or reinforce it. Since the wrong
strategy pick will taste like sea salt on your rice pudding, be
certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new
public relations goal. You don't want to select "change"
when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
It's inevitable and unavoidable -- someone on your PR staff
will have to write a strong message and aim it at members
of your target audience. Because crafting action-forcing
language to persuade an audience to your way of thinking
really is hard work, you need your best, first-string writer
to put together some very special, corrective language.
Words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable,
but clear and factual if they are to correct something and shift
perception/opinion towards your point of view leading to the
behaviors you are targeting.
Less taxing, and occasionally fun, is the selection of the
communications tactics most likely to carry your message to
the attention of your target audience. Do this after you run
the draft by your PR people for impact and persuasiveness.
There are dozens of tactics available to you. 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.
As we all know, the method by which we communicate a
message, if tainted in any way, can affect its believability
and credibility. So, if unsure, you may wish to limit its initial
scope by unveiling it before smaller meetings and presentations
rather than through higher-profile news releases.
Suggestions that progress reports might be a nice touch, should
be viewed as an early warning that a second perception
monitoring session with members of your external audience,
be undertaken. Many of the same questions used in the first
benchmark session can be used again. But this time, you will be
watching carefully for signs that the problem perception is being
altered in your direction.
If you suspect the program is lagging, accelerate matters with
more communications tactics, then increase their frequencies.
Thus, instead of hurting your PR results, you will indeed
increase the chances of program success. And once you as a
manager digest the underlying premise of managerial public
relations, as outlined above, you'll understand how the right
PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead to those
changed behaviors you need.
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.
Word count is 1135 including guidelines and resource box.
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 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.