Parties, videos, booklets and column plugs?
Or public relations that does something positive and
directly about those important outside audiences of yours
whose behaviors most affect your operation?
How happy are you -- as a business, non-profit or association
manager -- when you see your PR folks futzing around with
special events, brochures, press releases and TV talk show
Especially at a time when you probably need to create the
kind of key stakeholder behavior change that leads directly
to achieving your managerial objectives?
What it comes down to is this: are you simply looking for
publicity, or do you want public relations that really CAN
change individual perception and lead to equally changed
stakeholder behaviors that help you get your PR money's
If that sounds more like it, here's the roadmap for you:
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
Here's where that roadmap can go: customers starting to make
repeat purchases; membership applications on the rise; fresh
proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; community
leaders beginning to seek you out; welcome bounces in show
room visits; prospects starting to do business with you; higher
employee retention rates, capital givers or specifying sources
beginning to look your way, and even politicians and legislators
starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit
or association communities.
Do you believe your PR team will accept such a blueprint? Will
they show commitment to its implementation, starting with key
audience perception monitoring? Fortunately, your PR people
are already in the perception and behavior business, so they
should be of real use for this initial opinion monitoring project.
What they really need to accept is why it's SO important to know
how your most important outside audiences perceive your
operations, products or services. Namely, the reality that
perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or
hurt your operation.
Review your game plan with them, especially details for monitoring
and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most
important outside audiences. Questions like these: how much do you
know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us
and were you pleased with the interchange? Are you familiar with
our services or products and employees? Have you experienced
problems with our people or procedures?
You may find that using professional survey firms to do the opinion monitoring work can be costly so, as noted, you may wish to use
those PR folks of yours in that capacity since they're already in the perception and persuasion business. But, whether it's your people
or a survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the
same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors,
inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that
might translate into hurtful behaviors.
At this juncture, you want a PR goal that does something about the
most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience
perception monitoring. It may be to straighten out that dangerous misconception? Or correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that
potentially painful rumor cold?
Naturally, without the right strategy to tell you how to proceed, you
won't get there at all, So please remember that you have just three
strategic options available to you when it comes to doing something
about perception and opinion. Change existing perception, create
perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong
strategy pick will taste like whipped cream on your barbequed ribs,
so be sure your new strategy fits well with your new public relations
goal. You wouldn't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a
strategy of reinforcement.
Fact is, it's always a challenge to create an actionable message that
will help persuade an audience to your way of thinking. Nevertheless,
you must produce that well-written message and send it to members of
your target audience. So you must use your strongest writer because
s/he must build some very special, corrective language. Words that
are not merely compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and
factual if they are to shift perception/opinion towards your point of
view and lead to the behaviors you want.
With draft copy in hand, you move on to the communications tactics
most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target
audience. There are scores available. From speeches, facility tours,
emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,
newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But you must be
certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach people like your
The need for a progress report will crop up about now which is your
signal to begin a second perception monitoring session with members
of your external audience. You'll want to use many of the same
questions used in the first benchmark session. But now, you will be
on red alert for signs that the bad news perception is being altered
in your direction.
Please remember that efforts such as these usually can be accelerated
simply by adding more communications tactics and increasing their frequencies.
Experience shows that the kind of public relations that will matter
most to you will be PR that recognizes that the people you deal with
behave like everyone else ? they act upon their perceptions of the
facts they hear about you and your operation. Which means you
must move rapidly to create the kind of key stakeholder behavior
change that leads directly to achieving your managerial 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.
Word count is 1070 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.