Managers ? the business, non-profit and association sort ?
really need to get this down pat if they are to meet their
They need to do something positive about the behaviors
of those important external audiences of theirs that most
affect their operation. And as they persuade those key
outside folks to their way of thinking, help move them
to take actions that allow their department, group, division
or subsidiary to succeed.
The good news for those managers is that good public
relations planning really CAN alter individual perception
and lead to changed behaviors among key outside
The premise? 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.
There is literally no end to the magic that can be wrought:
fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;
welcome bounces in show room visits; prospects starting to
work with you; capital givers or specifying sources
beginning to look your way; customers starting to make
repeat purchases; membership applications on the rise;
community leaders beginning to seek you out, and even
politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key
member of the business, non-profit or association
First, get your public relations people on board this
particular approach to PR. Reason is, they must buy
into why it's so important to know how your outside
audiences perceive your operations, products or services.
And do be sure they accept the reality that negative
perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can
damage your organization.
Then, spend some time outlining how you plan to
monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members
of your most important outside audiences. Questions
like these: how much do you know about our
organization? 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
You'll find satisfaction in the fact that your PR people are
already in the perception and behavior business and can
be of real use for the initial opinion monitoring project.
Professional survey firms are always available, of course,
but that can blow your budget. So, whether it's your people
or a survey firm who handles the questioning, the objective
is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded
rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions.
It's time to decide which of the problems outlined above
becomes your corrective public relations goal ? clarify the
misconception, spike that rumor, correct the false
assumption or fix a variety of other possible inaccuracies?
The fact is that you will realize that goal only when you
select the right strategy from the three choices available
to you. Change existing perception, create perception
where there may be none, or reinforce it. Picking the
wrong strategy will taste like Limberger cheese on your
Jello. So please be certain the new strategy fits
comfortably with your new public relations goal. You
wouldn't want to select "change" when the facts dictate
a "reinforce" strategy.
Now, one of the more challenging aspects of your public
relations effort, writing a persuasive message aimed at
members of your target audience. It's never easy to craft
action-forcing language that will help persuade a target
audience to your way of thinking.
Needless to say, be certain you have your best writer on the
assignment. What's needed are words that are not only
compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual
if they are to shift perception/opinion towards your point
of view and lead to the behaviors you desire.
On the other hand, one of the less challenging chores is
identifying the communications tactics needed to carry your
message to the attention of your target audience. Insuring
that the tactics you select have a record of reaching folks
like your audience members, you can pick from dozens that
are available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and
brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,
newsletters, personal meetings and many others.
It's also a fact that the believability of the message can be
dependent on the credibility of its delivery method. Which
means you may wish to deliver it in small getogether-like
meetings and presentations rather than through a higher-
profile media announcement.
When progress reports are first suggested, you and your
PR team are well advised to undertake a second perception
monitoring session with members of your external
audience. The same questions used in the benchmark
session can be used again. But now, you will be observing
very carefully for indications that the bad news perception
is being altered in your direction.
If activity isn't at the pace you desire, rest assured that the
PR program usually can be accelerated by adding more
communications tactics as well as increasing their
The bottom line for a business, non-profit or association
manager is this: a workable public relations blueprint will
help you persuade your most important outside stakeholders
to your way of thinking, and move them to behave in a way that
leads to the success of your department, group, division or
Another example of perception, persuasion and behavior,
PR at work.
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 1010 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.