Just promoted to manager?
Here's something you need to know.
Whether you are now a business, non-profit or association
manager, your road to success really means achieving your
new managerial objectives by altering perceptions. And I
refer to perceptions leading to changed behaviors among
those key outside audiences of yours that most affect your
new group, department, division or subsidiary. And,
incidentally, key external folks whose behaviors will affect
whether you will be a success in your new role as a manager.
Along the way, hopefully, you'll not only do something
positive about the behaviors of those important external
audiences of yours that most affect your operation, you'll
persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking,
then move them to take actions that allow your department,
group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Fortunately, others have trod this path before you. Lessons
learned include this one: 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 accomplished.
That approach lets you attend to the perceptions and
behaviors of the very people who could hold your
professional success as a manager in their hands. And
not spend all your time with tactics like special events,
brochures and press releases.
When your PR program goes the way you want, you
should start to see new approaches by capital givers
and specifying sources; fresh proposals for strategic
alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to do
business with you; welcome bounces in show room
visits; rising membership applications; community
leaders beginning to seek you out; customers making
repeat purchases, not to mention politicians and legislators
viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit
or association communities.
You are forgiven for wondering just who will perform
these labors. Perhaps an outside PR agency team? Or
people assigned to your operation? Or your own public
relations folks? No matter where they come from, they
must be committed to you and this new PR plan starting
with key audience perception monitoring.
As a brand new manager, you need some back and forth
with your public relations support people to be sure 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. They must accept the
reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors
that can help or hurt your operation.
When you talk with them, be clear about how you plan to
proceed, in particular how the perception monitoring and
gathering will proceed by questioning members of your
most important outside audiences. As examples, 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
It's expensive to use professional survey firms in the
perception monitoring phases of your program. If the
resources are there, by all means do so. But it should
also be a source of comfort to know that if the budget
is not available, 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 behaviors.
The worst distortions you discovered during your key
audience perception monitoring will be no match for the
right kind of PR goal. And that's because the new goal
will probably call directly for straightening out that
dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross
inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor dead
in its tracks.
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 be. Keep
in mind that 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 butterscotch sauce on your
antipasto, 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
Here's a case where strong language can be an asset, because
someone on your PR staff must write a strong message and aim
it at members of your target audience. Obviously, crafting
action-forcing language to persuade an audience to your way
of thinking really is hard work. Which is why you need your
first-string varsity writer because s/he must create some very
special, corrective language. 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
With all that a new manager has to do to get oriented to the new responsibility, you'll be relieved that one of the less complex
jobs is selecting the communications tactics most likely to carry
your message to the attention of your target audience. You can
do this after you check out the draft message with your PR
people 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
Another caveat, you may decide to unveil your message
before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using
higher-profile news releases. The reason: a message's
believability can depend on the credibility of the means
used to deliver it.
Consider it your signal to begin a second perception
monitoring session with members of your external audience,
when the subject of progress reports arises. Many of the same
questions used in the first benchmark session can be used
again. But now, you will stay alert for signs that the problem
perception is being altered in your direction.
Also keep in mind that if your program suffers a loss
of momentum, you can always speed up things by adding
more communications tactics, and increasing their frequencies.
Brand new managers often are anxious for positive results
on their new job and, to that end, they had best worry more
about external audience behaviors than exploding out of
the gate with tactical broadsides.
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.