Well, for starters, because good public relations can alter
individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among
your key outside audiences. And that can help business,
non-profit and association managers like you achieve your
But remember to let the PR tacticians handle the special
events, brochures and press releases. As a professional
manager with public relations reporting to you, you have
more important things to do.
Like, for instance, planning to do something positive about
the behaviors of those key external audiences of yours that
most affect your operation. Especially when you persuade
those important outside people to your way of thinking,
then help move them to take actions that allow your
department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Here's a path you might follow as you put your public
relations action plan in play: 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 usually
What an approach along those lines can do, is help you
avoid an over-concentration on those tactical brochures,
press releases and special events, and focus your resources
instead on those key, all-important, outside groups of
And what might you expect in return? Among other
results, customers making repeat purchases; new
approaches by capital givers and specifying sources;
positive bounces in show room visits; rising membership
applications; community leaders beginning to seek you
out; prospects starting to do business with you; fresh
proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; not
to mention politicians and legislators viewing you as a
key member of the business, non-profit or association
Just who will do the work this implies, should be an early
concern. Specialists from a public relations agency?
People assigned to your operation? Your own public
relations staff? However, regardless of where they
come from, they need to be committed to you and
your PR plan beginning with key audience perception
During early conversations with PR staff, you need to be
certain that those assigned to you are clear on why it's vital
to know how your most important outside audiences
perceive your operations, products or services. Hopefully,
they've already accepted the reality that perceptions
almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your
The sooner you go over with them how you plan to proceed,
the better, especially how you will monitor and gather
perceptions by questioning members of your most important
outside audiences. For instance, how much do you know
about our chief executive? Have you had prior contact with
us and were you pleased with the interchange? How much
do you know about our services or products and employees?
Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?
If money is in the budget, don't hesitate to use professional
survey firms in the perception monitoring phases of your
program. And 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 hurtful
Your new PR goal will address the worst distortions
discovered during your key audience perception monitoring,
and probably call for straightening out that dangerous
misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or
stopping that potentially troublesome rumor.
But identifying the right strategy is the real key. This refers
to a strategy that tells you how to get to where you want
to be, and there are just three strategic options available
to you when it comes to handling a perception or opinion
challenge: create perception where there may be none,
change the perception, or reinforce it. Since the wrong
strategy pick will taste like banana-mango ketchup on
your canteloupe, be certain the new strategy fits
comfortably with your new public relations goal. You
don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a
Because crafting action-forcing language to persuade an
audience to your way of thinking really IS hard work, you
need your first-string varsity writer to create some very
special, corrective language and aim it at members of your
target audience. Words that are not only compelling,
persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are
to correct something and shift perception/opinion towards
your point of view leading to the behaviors you are targeting.
The job now is to select the communications tactics most
likely to carry your message to the attention of your target
audience. This can be done after the draft is reviewed by your
PR folks for impact and persuasiveness. There are dozens of
tactics available to you. 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
For better or worse, a message's believability can rest on the
credibility of the vehicle used to deliver it. So, you may decide
to introduce it before smaller meetings and presentations rather
than using higher-profile news releases.
Calls for progress reports are an early warning for you that
it's time for a second perception monitoring session with
members of your external audience. Actually, most of the
questions used in the first benchmark session can be used
again. But this time, you will be watching carefully for signs
that the problem perception is being altered in your direction.
And that's real progress!
But, of course, you can lose momentum. Should this occur,
you can always speed up the program by adding more
communications tactics, and increasing their frequencies.
Why public relations? An easy question for the professional
manager. Because it's crucial that you achieve your managerial
objectives, you must alter individual perception in a way that
leads to changed behaviors among your key outside audiences,
thus insuring the success of your operation.
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 1495 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.