How to Keep PR Working for You

Managers in the non-profit, association and business worlds need to persuade outside audiences with the greatest impact on their operations to their way of thinking. And then move those external stakeholders to take actions that help their departments, divisions or subsidiaries succeed.

But that takes a very special plan, one that delivers results far beyond simple publicity placements.

I'm talking about a blueprint, say, like this one that lets you broaden your public relations field of fire, putting its primary focus where it belongs, on your unit's key external stakeholder behaviors: "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."

You'll know such a blueprint is working when you see results like capital givers or specifying sources starting to look your way, customers making repeat purchases; membership applications on the rise; prospects beginning to do business with you; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures coming in; welcome bounces in show room visits; community leaders beginning to seek you out; and politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

However, to get there you've got to be certain the public relations people assigned to your unit buy into your more aggressive public relations approach. In other words, do they all accept the reality that it's crucially important to know how your outside audiences see your operations, products or services? And do they really subscribe to an even more important reality that says perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can trouble your unit?

Start by involving your PR team in plans for monitoring and gathering 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?

I mean, your PR people ARE in the perception and behavior business to begin with, so they should be of real use for this opinion monitoring project. Professional survey firms are always available, but that can cost a bundle. So, whether it's your people or a survey firm who asks the questions, the objective is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions .

With such answers gathered, you must decide which of the negatives should be designated as your corrective public relations goal ? for example, clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct the false assumption or fix a bothersome inaccuracy.

In the same way garlic goes with lamb chops, the right PR strategy tells you how to reach your goal. But just three are available when it comes to matters of perception and opinion -- change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. But be sure your new strategy fits naturally with your new public relations goal. If data gathered is satisfactory, you want the "reinforce it" strategy, not "change it."

When the moment comes to speak to your key stakeholder audience and help persuade them to your way of thinking, what will your message say?

Tap your best writer to produce the well-written corrective language you need. Words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to move perception/opinion towards your point of view and result in the behaviors you desire.

Here, fortunately, things gets easier as you select communications tactics to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Be sure that the tactics you select have a record of reaching people like your audience members. You can pick from dozens that are available ranging from speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and so many others.

Because HOW you communicate can affect the credibility of the message, you may wish to deliver it in small meetings or presentations rather than through high-visibility media announcements.

Those around you will soon be asking about progress. Which will lead to a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Employing many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session, you will now be watching carefully for signs that the offending perception is being altered in your direction.

In public relations, we're lucky that action like this can be accelerated by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies, if necessary.

And you're lucky again that the folks you deal with behave like everyone else ? they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operations. Which leaves you little choice but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move your key external audiences to action.

The workable public relations blueprint outlined above will, in fact, keep your PR working well for you for a very simple reason ? (repeating for emphasis), it will help you 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.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at mailto:[email protected]. Word count is 1025 including guidelines and resource box.

Robert A. Kelly © 2004.

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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