As a business, non-profit and association manager, how
satisfied are you when the public relations people assigned
to your unit spend the bulk of their time on someone's favorite
special event, brochures, press releases and talk-show
Especially when you'd rather have a public relations effort
that creates the kind of key stakeholder behavior change
that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives?
You know, PR that does something positive about the
important outside audiences whose behaviors most affect
your operation. And, in the bargain, helps persuade those
key external audiences to your way of thinking, helping
move them to take actions that allow your department,
division or subsidiary to succeed.
After all, what public relations boils down to are these realities:
the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead
to changed behaviors that help you succeed. Your public
relations effort must involve more than parties, videos,
booklets and column mentions if you really want to get your
money's worth. And you need a simple blueprint that gets
everyone working towards the same external audience
behaviors insuring that the organization's public relations
effort stays sharply focused.
Sounds like good stuff, and it is!
Here's one blueprint that can lead you in that direction: 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 accomplished.
And results like these can come your way. New proposals for
strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making repeat
purchases; prospects starting to work with you; membership
applications on the rise; capital givers or specifying sources
looking your way, and even bounces in showroom visits.
How, you are asking, do such managers produce results
They spend some time figuring out who among their most
important outside audiences behaves in ways that help or
hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then, they list them
according to how severely their behaviors affect their
More to the point, precisely how do most members of your
key outside audiences perceive your organization? If paying
for professional survey counsel isn't in the cards (or in the
budget!), your PR colleagues will have to monitor those
perceptions themselves. Actually, they should be quite
familiar with perception and behavior matters since they're
already in that business.
All of which means meeting with members of that outside
audience and asking questions like "Are you familiar with
our services or products?" "Have you ever had contact with
anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory
experience?" And if you are that manager, you must be
sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive or
hesitant replies. And watch carefully for false assumptions,
untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially
damaging rumors. When you find such, they will need to be
corrected, as they inevitably lead to negative behaviors.
Big job now is to pick out the actual, offending perception
to be changed, and that becomes your public relations goal.
You obviously want to correct those untruths, inaccuracies,
misconceptions or false assumptions.
The toughest part of this exercise is that a PR goal without
a strategy to show you how to get there, will taste like
asparagus with pancake syrup. So, as you select one
of three strategies (especially constructed to create perception
or opinion where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,)
what you want to do is insure that the goal and its strategy
match each other. You wouldn't want to select "change
existing perception" when current perception is just right
suggesting a "reinforce" strategy.
Now you must create a compelling message carefully put
together to alter your key target audience's perception, as
specified by your public relations goal.
Remember that you can always combine your corrective
message with another news announcement or presentation
which may give it more credibility by reducing the
apparent need for such a correction.
The message you convey must be not only compelling, but
quite clear about what perception needs clarification or correction,
and why. Naturally, you must be truthful and your position
logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention
of members of that target audience, and actually move
perception in your direction.
It's easy to see why some folks refer to the communications
tactics necessary to move your message to the attention of that
key external audience, as "beasts of burden." After all, they
must carry your persuasive new thoughts to the eyes and ears
of those important outside people.
You have a really wide choice because the list of tactics
is a long one. It includes letters-to-the-editor, brochures,
press releases and speeches. Or, you might choose radio
and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours
or customer briefings. There are scores available and the
only selection requirement is that the communications
tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just
like the members of your key target audience.
Of course, you can always move things along by adding
more communications tactics, AND by increasing their
In short order, you'll hear calls for progress reports. But
you will already be hard at work remonitoring perceptions
among your target audience members to test the
effectiveness of your communications tactics. Using
questions similar to those used during your earlier
monitoring session, you'll now become beady-eyed looking
for signs that audience perceptions are beginning to move
in your general direction.
Despite the article's headline, public relations results are
no small matter. In my view, your results will be directly
dependent on whether you base your PR budget primarily
on tactics, or the creation of key stakeholder behavior change
that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
One can hope it will be the latter.
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 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