Quality public relations does something positive for
business, non-profit and association managers about the
behaviors of the key external "publics" that most affect
their operations. In other words, it alters individual
perception that leads to changed behaviors among their
really important outside audiences.
In so doing, PR helps persuade those key external
audiences to the managers' way of thinking, helping
move them to take actions that allow for managerial
The alternative to quality PR suggests this question for
managers: are you simply looking for publicity, or do
you want public relations that really CAN change in-
dividual perception and lead to equally changed stakeholder
behaviors that help you get your money's worth?
If that's the high ground you have in mind, take a look
at this PR action blueprint: 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.
Thus, public relations quality begins with these two realities:
1) the right PR really CAN alter individual perception
and lead to changed behaviors that help you succeed,
and 2), your public relations effort must involve more
than good times, booklets and press releases if you really
want to get your money's worth.
Results, for example, like membership applications on the rise;
prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat
purchases; stronger relationships with the educational, labor,
financial and healthcare communities; improved relations
with government agencies and legislative bodies, and even
capital givers or specifying sources looking your way
With the passage of time, you may well see rebounds in
showroom visits; new proposals for strategic alliances and
joint ventures; community service and sponsorship
opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and
expanded feedback channels, not to mention new thought-
leader and special event contacts.
Quality results means your PR crew ? agency or staff ?
must be committed to you, as the senior project manager,
and to your PR blueprint starting with target audience
It's really vital that your most important outside audiences
perceive your operations, products or services in a positive
light. So be certain that your PR staff buys this approach.
And be especially careful that they accept the reality that
perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help
or hurt your unit.
Emphasize for your team the plan for monitoring and
gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most
important outside audiences. Questions along these lines:
how much do you know about our organization? How much
do you know about our services or products and employees?
Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased
with the interchange? Have you experienced problems with
our people or procedures?
Should your budget be able to accommodate professional
survey people to handle the perception monitoring phases
of your program, fine. If not, always remember that 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 behaviors you won't
Time to establish your public relations goal, one that speaks
to problems that showed up during your key audience
perception monitoring. In all likelihood, it will call for
straightening out that dangerous misconception, or
correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about
that ugly rumor.
Obviously, a PR goal needs a PR strategy that shows you
how to reach your new goal. You have three choices when
it comes to handling perception or opinion challenges:
create perception where there may be none, change the
perception, or reinforce it. As always, a bad strategy pick
will taste like vinaigrette on your toasted bagel, so be certain
the new strategy fits well with your new public relations
goal. For example, you don't want to select "change" when
the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
It's just plain hard work persuading an audience to your way
of thinking, so your PR team must develop some very
effective language. Phrases that correct the original
aberation and, at the same time, are compelling, persuasive,
believable AND clear and factual. You have little choice
if you are to correct a perception by attracting opinion to
your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors.
Take the time to review your final draft message for impact and persuasiveness. Only then can you select the communications
tactics most likely to carry your words to the attention of your
target audience. Dozens are available, 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 audience members.
Strange but true that the credibility of a message can depend
on how it's delivered. So, on the chance that may be true,
you might want to introduce your message to smaller groups
rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases
or talk show appearances.
Curiosity will prompt requests for a progress report which
will prompt you and your PR folks to consider returning to
the field for a second perception monitoring session with
members of your external audience. Using many of the same
questions used in the first benchmark session, you'll now be
alert for signs that the bad news perception is being altered
in your direction.
You can always accelerate the effort if you feel the need to
move things along at a faster clip ? try more communications
tactics and increased frequencies.
Just who is the manager who takes the high ground with quality
PR? Why, the business, non-profit or association manager
whose public relations effort delivers the kind of key external
stakeholder behavior change leading directly to achieving
his or her department, division or subsidiary objectives.
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.