Things are pleasant for many business, non-profit or
association managers when their public relations people
deliver newspaper and talk show mentions, informative
brochures and videos, and special events that attract a lot
But things could be much more pleasant for those managers
if their PR teams were to deliver the kind of behavior change
among their key outside audiences that leads directly to
achieving their managerial objectives. And, by so doing,
persuade their most important outside audiences to their
way of thinking, moving those folks to take actions that
help the managers' department, division or subsidiary succeed.
Put another way, the question managers really face is
this: are you simply looking for publicity, or a way to do
something positive about the behaviors of those external
audiences of yours that MOST affect your organization?
Before you answer that, here are two realities you might
want to keep in mind: 1) the right PR really CAN alter
individual perception and lead to changed behaviors that
help you succeed, and 2), your public relations effort must
involve more than good times, booklets and press releases
if you really want to get your money's worth.
For example, people really do 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.
There's no end to the results that recipe can generate:
prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat
purchases; stronger relationships with the educational, labor,
financial and healthcare communities; improved relations
with government agencies and legislative bodies, and even
capital givers or specifying sources looking your way
Once this approach takes hold, you could even see results
such as new proposals for strategic alliances and joint
ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; membership
applications on the rise; community service and sponsorship
opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and
expanded feedback channels, not to mention new
thoughtleader and special event contacts.
That's a fair amount of results from even a high-impact
blueprint like this one. Which means your PR crew -
agency or staff - must be committed to you, as the senior
project manager, and to your PR blueprint starting with
target audience perception monitoring.
We can agree that it's crucially important that your most
important outside audiences really perceive your operations,
products or services in a positive light. So assure yourself
that your PR staff buys this approach. And be especially
careful that they accept the reality that perceptions almost
always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Go over the blueprint with the whole PR group, especially
the plan for monitoring and gathering perceptions by
questioning members of your most important outside
audiences. Questions along these lines: 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?
If there's enough money in the bank, you can probably
afford professional survey people to handle the
perception monitoring phases of your program. If not,
always 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
behaviors you won't like one little bit.
Now you'll need a public relations goal, one that speaks
to the aberrations that showed up during your key
audience perception monitoring. In all likelihood, it
will call for straightening out that dangerous
misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or
doing something about that ugly rumor.
As day follows night, you'll now need a strategy that
shows you how to reach your new goal. You have three
strategic choices when it comes to handling perception
or opinion challenges: create perception where there may
be none, change the perception, or reinforce it. As always,
a bad strategy pick will taste like flapjack syrup on your
swordfish, so be certain the new strategy fits well with
your new public relations goal. For example, you don't
want to select "change" when the facts dictate a
As you might expect, persuading an audience to your way
of thinking is just plain hard work, so your PR team must
come up with some darn effective language. Words that
correct the original aberation and, at the same time, are
compelling, persuasive and believable AND clear and
factual. You have little choice if you are to correct a
perception by attracting opinion to your point of view,
leading to the desired behaviors.
Working with your communications specialists, review your
final draft message for impact and persuasiveness. Only then
can you 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.
Occasionally, the credibility of a message can depend
on how it's delivered. So, on the chance that may be true,
you might want to introduce it to smaller groups rather
than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases
or talk show appearances.
Calls for a progress report will prompt you and your PR
folks to consider returning 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'll now be alert for
signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your
If you feel the need to move things along at a faster clip,
you can always accelerate the effort with more
communications tactics and increased frequencies.
Truth is, "happy times are always here again" for the
manager who achieves the kind of key stakeholder
behavior change that leads directly to achieving his or
her department, division or subsidiary 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 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