You are getting a good deal when you accept the fact that
the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and
lead to the changed behaviors you need.
Especially when you recognize that people really
DO act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear
about your operations, and about you as a manager.
Meaning you have little choice but to deal promptly and
effectively with those perceptions by reaching and
moving those key external audiences of yours to
actions you desire.
Thus, you are certainly getting a good deal when your
business, non-profit or association PR investment creates
behavior change among those important outside
audiences that leads directly to achieving your managerial
objectives. However, you'll be able to accomplish this
only after persuading those key outside folks to your way
of thinking, then moving them to take actions that allow
your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Obviously, these managers are doing something positive
about the behaviors of those important outside audiences
of theirs that MOST affect their operations.
Underlying such efforts is the fundamental premise of
public relations: 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
Public relations helps business, non-profit and association
managers achieve their managerial objectives with outcomes
like these. New proposals for strategic alliances and joint
ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; customers making
repeat purchases; stronger relationships with educational,
labor, financial and healthcare interests; enhanced activist
group relations; new membership applications; capital
givers and specifying sources looking their way, as well as
improved relations with government agencies and legislative
bodies; new thoughtleader and special event contacts; and
expanded feedback channels.
Like most managers, you want your most important outside
audiences to view your operations, products or services in
the most positive light. So, you need to be certain that your
PR staff accepts the fact that perceptions almost always lead to
behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Discuss with your PR folks how you will gather and
monitor perceptions by questioning members of your most
important outside audiences. 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 how things went? Have you experienced problems
with our people or procedures?
Yes, if necessary, the perception monitoring phases of your
program can be assigned to professional survey people to
handle, IF the budget is available. If that's not the case, you
can depend on your own PR people who 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.
Obviously, problems that surfaced during your first perception
monitoring session, will identify your public relations goal.
Which should shoot to straighten out that dangerous misconception,
or correct that gross inaccuracy, or do something about that
While you can't have a public relations goal without a strategy
to tell you how to reach it, fact is, you have just three strategic
choices when it comes to handling a perception or opinion
challenge: create perception where there may be none, change
the perception, or reinforce it. Of course, picking the wrong
strategy will taste like seaweed on your popcorn, 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 "reinforce" strategy.
At this point, because the structure of your corrective message
is crucial, we start the search for words that compel and
persuade. Above all, they must be believable AND clear and
factual if they are to persuade an audience to your way of
thinking. But a must if you are to correct a perception by
shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the
behaviors you desire. Take the time to review your message
with the PR staff for its impact and persuasiveness.
Here you get to pick those communications tactics most likely
to attract the attention of your target audience. Fortunately,
you can pick from dozens of available techniques. From
speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer
briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings
and many others. Just be very sure that the tactics you pick
are known to reach folks just like your audience members.
Because the very credibility of your message can depend
on the way you deliver it, you might introduce it to smaller
gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications
such as news releases or talk show appearances.
In due course, you can expect you and your PR folks will move
back to the field for a second perception monitoring session
with members of your external audience. Same questions used
in the first benchmark session, will do the trick again. But you
must stay alert for signs that your communications tactics have
worked and that the negative perception is being altered the way
you want it to be altered.
If things slow down, you can always accelerate matters with a
broader selection of communications tactics AND increased
Public relation's single most important contribution to a
business, non-profit or association manager is building the resolve
to do something positive about the behaviors of those important
outside audiences that most affect their operations.
And that can only be effective when you, the manager in charge,
has accepted the fact that 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.
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.