And here it is: public relations alters individual perception
leading to changed behaviors among the key outside
audiences of a business, non-profit or association manager.
It happens when the manager applies positive actions
affecting the behaviors of those important external
audiences that most affect his or her operation.
That's the sweet ice cream. The whipped cream comes as
that manager persuades those key outside folks to his or
her way of thinking. The cherry-on-top arrives when
s/he moves those people to take actions that let his/her
department, group, division or subsidiary succeed.
A darn nice sweet spot, in this case described as an ice
cream sundae. But one that has a real basis for such
action: 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 usually accomplished.
Imagine some of the possible results: fresh proposals for
strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making
repeat purchases; new approaches by capital givers and
specifying sources; community leaders beginning to seek
you out; prospects starting to do business with you;
welcome bounces in show room visits; rising membership
applications; not to mention politicians and legislators
viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit
or association communities.
Getting your public relations people on board this particular
approach to PR will be your first concern. Are they on board
when it comes to knowing why it's so important to be certain
how your outside audiences perceive your operations,
products or services? And be sure they accept the reality that
negative perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that
can damage your organization.
Tell them how you plan to monitor and gather perceptions by
questioning members of your most important outside
audiences. Questions like these: how much do you know
about our organization? 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 or procedures?
Managers usually perk up when they realize that their PR
people are already in the perception and behavior business
and can be of real use for the initial opinion monitoring
project. Professional survey firms are always available, of
course, but that can cost many dollars. But, whether it's
your people or a survey firm who handles the questioning,
the objective remains the same: identify untruths, false
assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies,
misconceptions or any other troublemaker perceptions.
Now, you identify which of the problems outlined above
will become your corrective public relations goal. In other
words, clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct
the false assumption or fix a variety of other possible
Now, you can meet that goal only when you establish
the right strategy from the three choices available to you.
Change existing perception, create perception where
there may be none, or reinforce it. Picking the wrong
strategy will taste like peanut butter in your cucumber
salad. So please be certain the new strategy fits
comfortably with your new public relations goal. You
wouldn't want to select "change" when the facts dictate
a "reinforce" strategy.
Tough job ahead! Put together a persuasive message
aimed at members of your target audience. Yes, it's
always a challenge to put together action-forcing
language that will help persuade any audience to your
way of thinking.
You had best have your best writer on the assignment as
s/he must produce that very special, corrective language.
And s/he will need words that are not only 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 desire.
The next chore could even be fun. For example, identify
the communications tactics you need to carry your
message to the attention of your target audience. As long
as you are certain the tactics you select have a record of
reaching folks like your audience members, you can
pick from dozens that are available. From speeches,
facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings,
media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and
Often overlooked is the fact that the credibility of the
message can be dependent on the credibility of its delivery
method. Which means you may wish to deliver it in small
getogether-like meetings and presentations rather than
through a higher-profile media announcement.
An off-handed request for a progress report should be
viewed as an alert that you and your PR team need to
think about 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. But now, you will be watching very carefully for
signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your
Should program momentum slow, think of it as a blessing
because you now have the opportunity to add more
communications tactics as well as increasing their
Please remember that PR's sweet spot appears when the
manager applies positive actions affecting the behaviors of
those important external audiences that most affect his or
Now, stop doing public relations the hard way and embrace
that sweet spot today!
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 ? 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.