You are a senior business, non-profit or association manager.
So, chances are you call the shots for your department,
division or subsidiary.
Which means you can make your decisions stick.
Like deciding whether a publicity placement is more
important to you than creating external stakeholder
behavior change leading directly to achieving your
Like deciding to do something positive about the
behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours
that MOST affect your operation instead of concentrating
on tactics like videos and brochures.
Or even to persuade those key outside folks to your way
of thinking, and move them to take actions that allow
your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Might be time to expand your view of public relations to
emphasize the behaviors of your unit's key outside audiences
rather than publicity placements.
Why? For the simple reason that the people with whom
you interact every day behave like everyone else ? they act
upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and
your operation. Leaving you little choice but to deal promptly
and effectively with those perceptions (and their follow-on
behaviors) by doing what is necessary to reach and move
those key external audiences to action.
Fact is, your very own PR blueprint can make the job a lot
easier. For example, 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
Consider the possible result of such activity. Rising membership
applications, community leaders beginning to seek you out;
customers starting to make repeat purchases, and even
prospects starting to do business with you; fresh proposals
for strategic alliances and joint ventures; welcome bounces in
show room visits; and new approaches by capital givers and
specifying sources not to mention politicians and legislators
viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit or
But who's available to handle the assignment? Your own full-time
public relations staff? A few folks assigned by Corporate to your
unit? An outside PR agency team? Regardless where they come
from, they need to be committed to you, to the PR blueprint and
to its implementation, starting with key audience perception
By the way, when someone describes him/herself as a public
relations person you have no guarantee they've bought the blueprint.
Assure yourself that the PR people assigned to your unit really
believe why it's SO important to know how your most important
outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services.
Make sure they accept the reality that perceptions almost always
lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Review the PR blueprint with them, especially your plan for
monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members
of your most important outside audiences. For instance, how
much do you know about our chief executive? Have you had
prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange?
How much do you know about our services or products and
employees? Have you experienced problems with our people
Use professional survey firms in the perception monitoring
phases of your program, if your budget will bear the pain. But
keep in mind 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 hurtful behaviors.
If you set the right PR goal, you stand a good chance of
effectively dealing with the most serious distortions you
discovered during your key audience perception monitoring.
It could be to straighten out that dangerous misconception, or
correct that gross inaccuracy, or stop that potentially fatal
rumor dead in its tracks.
Here you select the right strategy, one that tells you how to
proceed. Please remember that there are only three strategic
options available to you when it comes to handling a perception
and opinion challenge. Change existing perception, create
perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Since the
wrong strategy pick will taste like eggs benedict on your pumpkin
pie, be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your
new public relations goal. You don't want to select "change"
when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
Writing tight and strong is seldom easy. Still, you must write
such a strong message and aim it at members of your target
audience. Because crafting action-forcing language to persuade
an audience to your way of thinking is tough work, you need
your first-string varsity writer because s/he must create some
very special, corrective language. Words that are not only
compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if
they are to correct something and shift perception/opinion
towards your point of view leading to the behaviors you are
After you run the draft by your PR colleagues for impact and
persuasiveness, select the communications tactics most likely
to carry your message to the attention of your target audience.
There are dozens available to you. 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
As we know, the credibility of a message can depend on how
you deliver it. Which is why you may decide to unveil it before
smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-
profile news releases.
You'll recognize calls for progress reports as signals to
you and your PR team to get busy on a second perception
monitoring session with members of your external audience.
You'll want to use many of the same questions used in the
first benchmark session. Difference this time is that you will
be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news
perception is being altered in your direction.
Should momentum slow, you can always accelerate matters
by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing
So, what you really want the new PR plan to accomplish is to
persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way
of thinking, then move them to behave in a way that leads to
the success of your department, division or subsidiary.
So your choice between public relations that delivers a print
or broadcast pickup, and public relations that creates the kind
of external stakeholder behavior change leading directly to
achieving your managerial objectives, isn't really a choice
Especially now that you realize you need public relations that
really CAN change individual perception and lead to equally
changed key outside audience behaviors that help you get your
PR money's worth.
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 1250 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.