Just think about it.
If I come to believe that you really didn't dump those chemicals
in the river, I'll probably stop picketing your business.
Or, if I now believe you actually care about me as an employee,
I may stay with the company.
And if I become convinced that you provide quality service at a
fair price, I'll probably do business with you.
All of which means that what I think about you - what perceptions
of you I hold in my mind - can change my behavior in a way that
you prefer, or hate.
So, since my behavior is affected by my perception of the facts,
it suggests that those perceptions might even be created from
scratch, or changed, or existing behavior reinforced through a
well-planned public relations effort.
Fact is, they can be, and that should interest you. Imagine being
able to affect the behaviors of members of your key target
audience! What would THAT do to your bottom line?
Happily, it's not that difficult to do.
Start this way. The foundation on which successful public relations
outreach is built is, in reality, YOUR outreach. So become a willing
participant in the public business life in your marketing area.
That means activities such as sponsoring special events, making
speeches before local business and fraternal audiences, and
sitting for newspaper and radio interviews. That builds the
good will you may need in troubled times.
A good starting point is staying in touch with those folks whose
actions either help or hurt your operations. When you interact
with them, ask them what they believe about your products, your organization and you. Remain alert for looming problems. You
can call this the information gathering phase.
Now it's time to list your key audiences. At the beginning,
concentrate on those actions that REALLY concern you and
start your interactions with members of that audience. They can
include stakeholders like customers, employees, prospects, media,
community residents, local government agencies and many others.
When you discover a troubling perception, do something about it
as soon as you can. Working with your public relations advisor,
establish your public relations goal. Examples: neutralize that
negative rumor that you hire illegals; prove that your process
does not pollute a nearby lake; or restore the faith of that group
of former customers.
If you fail to attend to them, any one can hurt your business.
So, with your goal set, you must now decide what your strategy will
be in dealing with the perception problem.
We know there are just three choices available to you in dealing
with such opinion problems. Create new opinion, change existing
opinion, or reinforce it.
Work closely with your public relations advisor in deciding which
it is. Then, proceed by preparing persuasive messages carefully and creditably designed to counter the misconception you have
uncovered. Run the messages by outsiders so you can gauge just
how persuasive they really are.
Here, it's time to select the communications tactics needed to carry
your persuasive message to the attention of that very important
target audience. Fortunately, there are dozens of communications
tactics available to you such as print and broadcast media interviews,
awards ceremonies, emails, promotions, press releases, newsletters,
personal meetings, speeches and open houses.
But your work is still not done. You need to continue monitoring
members of your target audience to measure not only how aware
they are of your message, but how well they received it.
Depending on the responses you receive, it may be necessary to
adjust both your message content and your mix of communications
Until something better comes along, we have little choice but to
continually track perceptions among key audiences by interacting
with them and by monitoring other sources such as media reports,
speeches by local influentials and emails from other interested
parties. Then, create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors effect the organization.
Using this approach, you will find it easier to accept and act
upon the notion that what people believe really can bring you
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 ? 2003
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.