Quite a bit, actually. Public relations helps business, non-
profit and association managers achieve their managerial
objectives with results like these. New proposals for strategic
alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits;
customers making repeat purchases; stronger relationships
with educational, labor, financial and healthcare interests;
enhanced activist group relations; new membership
applications; capital givers and specifying sources looking
their way, as well as improved relations with government
agencies and legislative bodies; both new thoughtleader
and special event contacts; and expanded feedback
Here are some of the public relations strategies they use.
They accept the fact that the right PR really CAN alter
individual perception and lead to the very changed
behaviors they need. And they recognize that, because
people DO act upon their perceptions of the facts they
hear about these managers and their operations, they have
little choice but to deal promptly and effectively with
those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach
and move those key external audiences of theirs to
actions they desire.
What these business, non-profit and association
managers are doing is taking steps to do something positive
about the behaviors of those important outside audiences
of theirs that MOST affect their operations.
So they create the kind of external stakeholder behavior
change that leads directly to achieving their managerial
objectives. Interestingly, they'll be able to accomplish this
when they persuade those key outside folks to their way
of thinking, and then move them to take actions that allow
their department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Undergirding the whole effort is the fundamental premise of
public relations: 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
There is no doubt that you want your most important outside
audiences to perceive your operations, products or services
in a positive light. So, reassure yourself that your PR staff
accepts the basic truth that perceptions almost always lead to
behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Talk to your PR people regarding how you will gather and
monitor 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 how things went? Have you experienced problems
with our people or procedures?
Clearly, the perception monitoring phases of your program
can be assigned to professional survey people to handle, IF
the budget is available. If not, you are fortunate that you can
depend on your own 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.
Problems that appeared during your key audience perception
monitoring will be the basis for your public relations goal. No
doubt it will shoot to straighten out that dangerous misconception,
or correct that gross inaccuracy, or do something about that
You can't avoid the fact that every goal must have a strategy
to show you how to get there. But you have just 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. As luck would have it, selecting
the wrong strategy will taste like sauteed bologna ends, 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 you'll be looking for words that are compelling,
persuasive, believable AND clear and factual. Structuring your
corrective message is crucial because persuading an audience
to your way of thinking is awfully hard work. But a must if
you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards
your point of view, leading to the behaviors you desire. Take
the time to go over your message with your PR folks for
its impact and persuasiveness.
Time to select the precise communications tactics most likely
to attract the attention of your target audience. Happily, you
can pick from dozens of available tactics. From speeches,
facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings,
media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many
others. Just be very sure that the tactics you pick are known to
reach folks just like your audience members.
It's a fact that your message credibility can depend on the
way you deliver it. Try introducing it to smaller gatherings
rather than using higher-profile communications such as
news releases or talk show appearances.
Because a progress report will be unavoidable, you can expect
you and your PR folks to move back to the field for a second
perception monitoring session with members of your external
audience. Same questions used in the first benchmark session,
will do the trick again. But you must stay alert for signs that your
communications tactics have worked and that the negative
perception is being altered the way you want it to be altered.
By the way, you can always speed things up with a broader
selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.
Public relation's single most important contribution to a
business, non-profit or association manager is building the resolve
to do something positive about the behaviors of those important
outside audiences that most affect their operations.
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 ? 2004.
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.