The power of public relations is its ability to alter individual perception, resulting in changed behaviors that lead directly to your organization's success.
Its power really lies in doing something positive about the behaviors of a business, non-profit or association manager's important outside audiences ? behaviors that MOST affect his or her operation.
That's how external stakeholder behaviors are created that help achieve managerial objectives. In particular when managers persuade those key outside folks to their way of thinking, then move them to take actions that help the manager's department, division or subsidiary succeed.
A basic public relations blueprint looks like this: 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.
So, two key messages radiating from that fundamental premise are (1) your public relations effort must involve more than special events, brochures and news releases if you really want to get your money's worth, and (2), the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors that help you succeed!
A variety of results can flow from this managerial approach to public relations. It can generate follow-on activity like customers making repeat purchases; stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; prospects starting to work with you, and even capital givers or specifying sources looking your way
You can even see results such as community service and sponsorship opportunities; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded feedback channels; rebounds in showroom visits; and membership applications on the rise, not to mention new thoughtleader and special event contacts.
Because those kinds of results can be expected from such a high-impact blueprint, your PR staff ? agency or staff ? must be committed to you, as the senior project manager, to the PR blueprint and its implementation, starting with target audience perception monitoring.
Certainly you agree that your most important outside audiences really must perceive your operations, products or services in a positive light if you are to succeed. So be certain that your PR staff is completely onboard for the whole effort. Be especially careful that they accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Review the PR blueprint in detail, especially the plan for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions like these: 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?
The perception monitoring phases of your program can obviously be handled by professional survey people IF the budget is there. But you can always choose to use your PR people who 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.
Let's talk about the public relations goal. You need one that addresses the aberrations that cropped up during your key audience perception monitoring. In all probability, it will aim to straighten out that dangerous misconception, or correct that gross inaccuracy, or do something about that hurtful rumor.
Of course, when you set a goal, you need a strategy that shows you how to get there. You have three strategic choices when it comes to handling a perception or opinion challenge: create perception where there may be none, change the perception, or reinforce it. A bad strategy pick will taste like ketchup on your pecan pie, 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.
Here's some really hard work for your PR team, because they now must come up with some carefully targeted, corrective language. Words that are compelling, persuasive and believable AND clear and factual. You must do this if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors.
After going over your message for impact and persuasiveness with your communications specialists, work with them to select the communications tactics most likely to carry your words to the attention of your target audience. 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. But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.
Taking no chances with the time-honored warning that the credibility of a message can depend on how it's delivered, consider introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases or talk show appearances. When the calls for progress reports get loud enough, you can respond by returning to the field with your PR folks 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.
Should things slow down, you can always accelerate matters by using more communications tactics along with increased frequencies.
In this way, you employ the unique power of public relations in just the right way. You alter individual perception, resulting in changed behaviors that lead directly to your organization's 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. Word count is 1085 including guidelines and resource box.
Robert A. Kelly ? 2004.
About The Author
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.