Who wants to face the challenges of a business recovery
without a ton of firepower? Especially when getting your
piece of the action almost certainly depends upon how
well you modify the behaviors of your target audiences.
That's why public relations had better play a central role in
your business planning. Particularly since any recovery that
takes place will be the result of industrial, commercial and
individual consumers alike starting to behave like buyers,
whether of your products or services, luxury real estate,
frozen pizzas, industrial transformers or information
So, before this train leaves the station, if you are unsure
how best to use public relations in the expected recovery,
consider its basic mission firmly rooted in the principle that
people act on their own perception of the facts. Then it
strives to create, change or reinforce public opinion by
reaching, persuading and moving-to-action those people
whose behaviors affect the organization. When the behavioral
changes become apparent, and meet the program's original
behavior modification goal, the program has succeeded.
But what comes first? How about a real acceptance that
(1) individual perception of the facts is THE guiding light
leading to behavioral change, and (2) that something really
CAN be done about those perceptions. Think about that for a
moment - not every one buys it. For me, I can tell you it
was an epiphany of immense proportion that actually helped
shape my career in public relations.
First, we set the goal whether it be to move consumers to
try a new soft drink flavor; or to perceive your organization
in a new light thus strengthening its reputation; or to lead
them to a positive perception of the company in turn leading
to new investments in the company's shares.
Next, what strategy will it take to reach that goal? Opinion
Creation, Change or Reinforcement?
Here, the real public opinion work begins. The public
relations squad must decide whether opinion among key
audiences is to be created from scratch, requiring a lot of
basic data, information and interpretation from which a person
can form an initial opinion.
Or, are we talking about a change in opinion, a nudge in
one direction or the other requiring a clear, credible and
well-supported explanation of, and rationale for why anyone
should alter their current views?
Or, do we simply reinforce opinion that pretty much tracks
with the opinion level we desire? In this case, we use simple
corroboration and additional third-party support to strengthen
existing public opinion.
But for each of the three choices, the information and data to
be communicated must be creditably sourced, crystal-clear
and logically presented.
On to reach, persuade and move-to-action
Now, it's time to actually reach your key audiences, people
whose behaviors will affect your organization. Among others,
these stake-holders include customers, employees, prospects,
retirees, media, legislators, regulators, and both financial and
But reaching these target groups means applying the most
effective communications tactics available to you. These
will include such tools as media relations and publicity-
generating news conferences and press releases, newsletters
and e-mails, high-profile speeches, charitable contributions,
investor relations, informal opinion surveys and many others.
Special events also will be high on the "reach" action
list: newsworthy events like trade shows, open houses,
awards ceremonies, contests, VIP receptions, financial
roadshows, and even media-attracting stunts.
Persuading your key audiences, the third leg of the opinion
troika, is yet another challenge because bringing these
important groups of stakeholders around to your way of thinking
depends heavily on the quality of the message you prepare
for each target audience.
It's hard work. You must understand and identify what is
really at issue at the moment; impart a sense of credibility
to your comments; perform regular assessments of how opinion
is currently running among that group, constantly adjusting
your message; as well as highlighting those key issue points
most likely to engage their attention and involvement.
Equally important to moving into action with highly effective communications tactics will be the selection and perceived
credibility of the actual spokespeople who will deliver your
messages. They must be seen as people of stature, and they
must speak with authority, personal confidence and conviction
if meaningful media coverage is to be achieved.
Now, Let's Gain and Hold
By this time, your action program should begin to gain and
hold the kind of public understanding and acceptance that
will lead to the desired shift in public behavior.
And The End-Game? Modify Behavior, Achieve your Goal
When the changes in behaviors become truly apparent through
media reports, thought-leader comment, employee and community
chatter and a variety of other feedback -- at the same time
clearly meeting your original behavior modification goal --
I'll say again that your public relations program can be deemed
Obviously, your piece of the action in the business recovery
ahead will come at a price. And that will be your cost to
efficiently modify the behaviors of your target audiences.
But, the payoff makes it all worthwhile -- nothing less than
the achievement of your business objectives and, at slight
risk of overstatement, a real contribution to the survival
of your organization.
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