It took me a while to see just HOW crucial the behaviors
of an organization's key audiences really are to its success,
be it big or small, non-profit, business, association or
even a public sector enterprise.
Sounds elemental, doesn't it? But the truth is, few
organizations can succeed today if those target audience
behaviors don't fit the organization's objectives.
Fortunately for those working in public relations, most
people act on their own perception of the facts which leads
to behaviors about which we can do something. And that
means that when we create, change or reinforce that
opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-
action those people whose behaviors affect the organization,
the public relations mission is accomplished.
So, while applying that reality to your operation helps you
achieve your objectives AND success, the public
relations people still must modify somebody's behavior if
they are to help you hit those objectives. Happily, it can be
done and done well, as long as you keep your eye on that
For example, you may wish to influence people to begin
thinking more positively about your organization, thus
strengthening its reputation and business potential. It
could be as simple as communicating your organization's
strengths to a target audience leading them to want to
work more closely with you. Or even providing
environmental activists with the facts about the
company's full compliance with Federal regulations, in
the hope they will bring their plant-site demonstrations
to an end.
But remember, until you have a solid indication that target
behaviors have, in fact, changed in ways that meet your
primary behavior modification goal, you DON'T know if
your investment has paid off.
So, let's look at ways to increase one's comfort level about
that public relations investment. Here are five steps, that
can help you hit the public relations goal - desired
behavior modification -- on your next public relations venture.
Above all, in my opinion, you must keep your eye on the
end-game, and not merely the communications tactics,
because the reason we do public relations in the
first place is to change the behaviors of certain groups of
people important to the success of our organization.
Step 1 Accept the Fact That People Act on their
Perception of the Facts
Most behavioral experts agree that people really do act on
THEIR perception of the facts, and that how they react to
those facts actually does affect their behaviors. It follows
that individual understanding of those facts must be contin-
ually informed if those behaviors are to help achieve the
organization's goal and objectives.
Step 2 Create, Change or Reinforce Opinion
Here, after assessing opinion among your target audiences
through media monitoring, opinion sampling and thought-
leader contact, you must decide how you will approach
each target audience. Choosing the correct mode -
1) reinforcing existing opinion, 2) creating new opinion
from scratch or 3) changing current and possibly long-held
views -- is obviously central to your message preparation
strategy and its copy approach.
Step 3 Reach, Persuade and Move-to-Action
Now, you must reach, persuade and move-to-action those
people whose behaviors will affect your organization. That
includes, among others, a variety of stakeholders including
customers, employees, prospects, retirees, media, legislators and
regulators, and both financial and plant communities.
Reaching these target groups means applying the most effective communications tools available to you. Again, among others, these
will include such tactics as media relations and publicity-
generating news conferences and press releases, newsletters and
e-mails, high-profile speeches, charitable contributions,
investor relations and informal opinion surveys.
Persuading these important groups of stakeholders to your
way of thinking depends heavily on the message you prepare
for each target audience. 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
Step 4 Gain and Hold Understanding and Acceptance
By this time, your action program should begin to gain and
hold the kind of public understanding and acceptance that
leads to the desired shift in public behavior.
Signs that your messages are turning some opinion in your
direction should appear. A chance comment in a business
meeting, a popular columnist's observations, e-mails from
interested parties or co-worker alerts that this political
figure or that local celebrity made public references to
your topic, should begin to build. Many of these indicators,
each reflecting the state of individual perception, will
gradually begin to reflect the modified behaviors you have
Step 5 Modify the Behavior, Achieve your Goal
When the changes in behaviors become truly apparent through
media reports, thought-leader comment, employee and community
chatter and other feedback, at the same time clearly meeting
your original behavior modification goal, your public
relations program is a success.
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