Want This Kind of PR?

PR that really does something positive about the behaviors of those outside audiences that most affect your business, non-profit or association?

PR that uses its fundamental premise to deliver external stakeholder behavior change ? the kind that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives?

PR that persuades those important outside folks to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed?

Get organized and you could be looking at results like these: prospects starting to do business with you; membership applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; community leaders beginning to seek you out; welcome bounces in show room visits; higher employee retention rates, capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way, and even politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

And the fundamental premise of public relations will show you the way: 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.

As a manager, if you're serious about making your public relations dollars earn their keep, you had better take the time to actually list those outside audiences of yours who behave in ways that help or hinder you in achieving your objectives. Then prioritize them by impact severity. Now, let's work on the target audience in first place on that list.

I'll wager that you don't have access to data that tells you how most members of that key outside audience perceive your organization. You would, however, have these data if you had been regularly sampling those perceptions.

But without a hefty budget to hire professional survey people, you and your colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions yourselves. Interact with members of that outside audience by asking questions like "Have you ever had contact with anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience? Are you familiar with our services or products?" Stay alert to negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies. Watch carefully for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. Any of which will need to be corrected, because experience shows they usually lead to negative behaviors.

Since you must correct such abberations before they morph into hurtful behaviors, you now select the specific perception to be altered, and that becomes your public relations goal.

Unfortunately, a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like meatloaf without the gravy. That's why you must select one of three strategies especially designed to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change existing perception, or reinforce it. The challenge here is to insure that the goal and its strategy match each other. You wouldn't want to select "change existing perception" when current perception is just right suggesting a "reinforce" strategy.

Now writing skill enters the fray. Someone on your PR team must put those writing skills to work and prepare a compelling message carefully designed to alter your key target audience's perception, as called for by your public relations goal.

Consider combining your corrective message with another newsworthy announcement of a new product, service or employee which may lend credibility by not overemphasizing the correction.

Try to build several values into your corrective message. Clarity for example. It must be clear about what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Your facts must be truthful and your position must be persuasive, logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that target audience, and actually move perception your way.

Here is the least challenging part of your campaign, picking the "beasts of burden" ? the actual tactics you will use to carry your persuasive new thoughts to the attention of that external audience.

There are plenty of communications tactics available including letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases and speeches. Or, you might select others such as radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, newsletters, or group briefings, always making sure the tactics you select have a record of reaching the same audiences as those that make up your target stakeholders.

You'll want to be ready for queries about progress by again monitoring perceptions among your target audience members. Using questions similar to those used during your earlier monitoring session, you will now watch carefully for indications that audience perceptions are beginning to move in your direction.

We are fortunate in the PR business that we can always put the pedal to the metal by employing additional communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.

As this article suggests, you WILL want this kind of PR only after you insist on an aggressive new public relations plan that targets the kind of key stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your operating objectives.

About The Author

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. mailto:[email protected]. Visit: http://www.prcommentary.com

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