That's like asking if advertising is all about type faces and
photography. The answer to both questions is a teeth-clenched
"of course not!"
What public relations IS all about, rather than hollow images,
is the very real business of dealing effectively with target
audience perceptions and behaviors that have a major effect on
For example, members who believe you're not servicing them
adequately; sales prospects who perceive your product as
overpriced and are busy taking their buying power elsewhere;
or employees who believe you don't give a tinker's damn
about them and have dangerously reduced your productivity;
or local citizens who believe, true or not, that you dump bad
stuff into the river, thus keeping a negative media spotlight
trained on your organization,
To answer the headline one more time, public relations is all
about insuring that such results don't happen in the first place.
First, if those involved in the examples above had been
regularly monitoring those target audiences, they would
have had ample warning and the time needed to take corrective
So regularly monitoring those key external audiences is a must.
What are they thinking about your business, if anything? Are
perception problems looming? Are follow-on behaviors
developing as a result?
The answers to those questions allow you to set a public
relations goal, generally corrective in nature. Examples:
you determine that your prices are not only fair, but below
several competitors and you plan to publicize and promote
that fact; or you plan to meet regularly with employees,
listen to them and do something about their complaints,
if you can; or you meet with the activist group and share with
them the State Environmental Agency's finding that you
are in complete compliance with disposal regulations.
With the public relations goal set, we obviously need a
strategy designed to reach that goal. And this could be the
least complex step in the problem solving sequence
because there are only three possible strategies available to
us - create opinion where there is none, change existing
opinion, or reinforce it. That's it! It must be one of those.
In the three cases outlined above, you clearly would be
aiming to change existing opinions.
Next on the public relations agenda are the persuasive
messages needed to change that existing opinion. You must
design them carefully and creditably to counter the
misconceptions you uncover, such as those above. Run
them by folks outside your organization so that you get an
idea of just HOW persuasive they are (or are not!).
Now, we need to assign a few "beasts of burden"
communications tactics to actually carry our persuasive
messages directly to the eyes and ears of our key target
audiences. Fortunately, we have available to us scores of
tactics. Everything from newspaper interviews, on-camera
appearances, live radio interviews and in-person meetings
to brochures, speeches, op-eds, special events and editorial
Which suggests that you consider working with a professional
public relations advisor because you probably have neither
the time nor expertise to handle this work.
Now, it's back to the monitoring chore to measure how many
individuals received the message (and through what medium),
and how many are aware of the message content. Monitoring
at this point also let's us make mid-course corrections by
adjusting both message content and the mix of communications
As time passes, and your monitoring of target audience opinion
progresses, you will begin to notice growing signs of awareness
of your business, of yourself as its proprietor, and of its role
in the marketplace and the community.
It is now that you will become a believer in public relations's
ability to strengthen your business relationships with those
important, external audiences. People who hold in their hands
not a hollow image of your business, but through their patronage
and support, the actual success of your enterprise.
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 ? 2003.
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