Yes? Then do something positive about the behaviors
of those important external audiences of yours that
MOST affect your operation.
Those embers can leap into flame when business, non-
profit or association managers use public relations to
alter individual perception among their target publics,
leading to changed behaviors and helping to achieve
their managerial objectives.
In the process, things can really blaze when managers
take steps to persuade their key external folks to their
way of thinking, then move them to take actions that
allow that manager's department, group, division or
subsidiary to succeed.
The kindling for your new fire is the reality that 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.
Let's assume you are such a manager and that you will
keep in mind that your PR effort must demand more
than special events, brochures and press releases if
you are to achieve the quality public relations results
you're counting on.
And lots of good things CAN happen. Capital givers or
specifying sources beginning to look your way;
customers starting to make repeat purchases;
membership applications on the rise; fresh proposals
for strategic alliances and joint ventures; politicians
and legislators starting to view you as a key member
of the business, non-profit or association communities;
welcome bounces in show room visits; prospects
starting to do business with you; and community leaders
beginning to seek you out.
Because your public relations professionals are already
in the perception and behavior business, they can be of
real use for your new opinion monitoring project. But
be certain that the PR staff really accepts why it's SO
important to know how your most important outside
audiences perceive your operations, products or services.
And make sure they believe that perceptions almost
always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your
Sit down and review with them your plans 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? Have you had prior contact
with us and were you pleased with the interchange?
Are you familiar with our services or products and
employees? Have you experienced problems with
our people or procedures?
When you study the benefits of the program, you
may conclude it's a no-brainer as you measure
the cost benefit of using those PR folks of yours in
that monitoring capacity against the cost of using
professional survey firms to do the opinion gathering
work. But, whether it's your people or a survey firm
asking the questions, the objective remains the same:
identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors,
inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative
perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.
It's time to establish a goal calling for action on
the most serious problem areas you uncovered
during your key audience perception monitoring.
Will it be to straighten out that dangerous
misconception? Correct that gross inaccuracy? Or,
stop that potentially painful rumor cold?
Naturally, setting your PR goal requires an equally
specific strategy that tells you how to get there.
There are just three strategic options available to
you when it comes to doing something about
perception and opinion. Change existing perception,
create perception where there may be none, or
reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick will taste like
onion gravy on your deep dish apple pie, so be sure
your new strategy fits well with your new public
relations goal. You wouldn't want to select "change"
when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.
Now comes the hard work. You must prepare a
persuasive message that will help move your key
audience to your way of thinking. It must be a
carefully-written message targeted directly at your
key external audience. Your very best writer will
be needed because s/he must produce really
corrective language. Words that are not merely
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 have in mind.
At last you come to the fun part of the program.
Selecting the communications tactics most likely
to carry your message to the attention of your
target audience. There are many available. From
speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to
consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters,
personal meetings and many others. But be certain
that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks
just like your audience members.
How you communicate is a concern since the
credibility of any message is fragile and always up
for grabs. Which is why you may wish to unveil your
corrective message before smaller meetings and
presentations rather than using higher-profile news
You and your PR team will inevitably view any
suggestions about progress reports as an alert to
begin a second perception monitoring session
with members of your external audience. You'll
want to use many of the same questions used in
the benchmark session. But now, you will be on
strict alert for signs that the bad news perception
is being altered in your direction.
The fact that you can always speed things up by
adding more communications tactics as well as
increasing their frequencies, will be a source of
comfort for you should program momentum slow.
The fastest way for managers to light a fire under
their public relations efforts is to persuade those
key external audiences of theirs to his or her way
of thinking, thus moving those publics to take
actions that allow the managers' business,
non-profit or association to succeed.
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 ? 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.