Experience tells me that too many business, non-profit
and association managers pursue their goals and objectives
largely without the insights, behavioral strategies and
sheer power public relations can bring to the table.
Here's what I believe they're missing, i.e., the essentials
that flow from the fundamental premise of public relations,
namely: people act on their own perception of the facts
before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about
which something can be done. So, when we create, change
or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and
moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors
affect the organization, the public relations mission is
If you are that manager, please recognize that any
organization including your own ?MUST take into
account the perceptions held by those external audiences
whose behaviors affect your organization, or the
behaviors flowing from those perceptions can hurt.
My first question for you is, is it just a matter of "hits?"
You know, articles or interviews sold to editors? Is that
all there is to public relations?
Or, could there be more to it? Of course there's more to it!
Why do you want the "hits" in the first place? What are you
trying to accomplish?
I believe you want the same thing every other buyer of public
relations services wants: to change somebody's behavior in a
way that really helps your organization reach its objectives.
So, wouldn't it make more sense to start at the beginning
and save tactics like "publicity hits" for that moment when
you need those "beasts of burden" to do their thing? Namely,
to efficiently carry persuasive messages to a key target
audience of yours?
Sure it would.
So let's start by taking a close look at those external target
publics. They're so important because how they think and
behave can actually determine the success or failure of your
Don't believe it? Look at those audiences whose behaviors
directly affect your organization's operations, even
those possibly unaware that your organization even exists.
Are they likely to want its services or products?
Look at an external audience where members harbor a serious misconception about the organization. Does this reduce their
desire to work with you?
Look at an external audience some of whose members believe
a grossly negative and inaccurate set of facts about the
organization. Will those people be first in line to work with you?
Obviously, what members of a key target audience believes
about your organization matters, and matters a lot!
Why not begin by heading-off such a situation by listing those
outside groups ? those target audiences ? in order of how much
their behaviors affect your organization?
Start by interacting with those people. Of course, if the
budget will stand it, you could use a survey firm to gather their
feelings, thoughts and perceptions.
Minus such a budget, however, do it yourself. Fortunately,
your public relations colleagues are already in the opinion
monitoring business and can carefully gauge how these
people feel about your organization. When you interact this
way, you get to ask a lot of questions and gather a lot of
information you really need.
What are you hearing? Misconceptions that need straightening
out? Rumors that should not be allowed to exist? Inaccurate
beliefs about your products and services that could drive
people away from you? Do you notice still other perceptions
about you and your organization that need to be altered?
The answers to such questions allow you to create your public
relations goal which will alter, and thus correct, each
misconception, or inaccuracy, or rumor.
You've made some real progress by monitoring perceptions
within your key target audience, and you've established your
corrective public relations goal.
Now for the strategy that tells you how to reach that goal.
HOW to move forward with your new PR effort is always
challenging, especially when it comes to selecting the right
strategy to tell you how to get where you want to go. 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 too much pepper in your chicken soup, assure
yourself that 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 time to do some more work in the form of "what you
are going to say to your key external audience." If all goes
well, it will alter people's inaccurate perceptions about
you and the organization.
However, it must be persuasively written so that it is
perceived as creditable and believable. And it must speak
the truth clearly and with authority.
Your "beasts of burden" show up at this point. In two words,
communications tactics that will carry your newly-minted
message from your computer direct to the attention of those
key target audience members whose behavior you hope to
alter in your direction.
It is your good fortune that there are scores of such tactics
awaiting your call to arms. You might use a speech to
communicate your message, or letters-to-the-editor, press
releases, emails, brochures or face-to-face meetings, and
many other tactics.
To find out if you're making any progress towards your
behavioral goal, you will need to REmonitor target audience
members as well as local print and broadcast media.
But now, you'll be looking for perception and attitude
changes hopefully produced by the combination of your
persuasive messages and carefully targeted communications
tactics. And you'll be asking lots of questions all over again.
Should you be fortunate enough to note considerable
movement in opinion in your direction, you may consider
your public relations goal as having been achieved.
On the other hand, if little movement is noted, adjustments to
the frequency, quantity and tactics mix should be made. Your
message also should be reviewed for its content and direction,
and tested again for effect with a panel of target group members.
Either way, your public relations program is on track and
preparing to deliver the key target audience behaviors your
operation needs to succeed.
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.