The Worst PR Mistakes

For a business, non-profit or association manager, they could be fatal, coming as they do in four bitter flavors.

Mistake #1 ? You limit your PR activity pretty much to placing product and service plugs on radio and in newspapers.

Mistake #2 ? You fail to embrace the kind of PR plan that persuades those important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed.

Mistake #3 -- You fail to use the high-impact, fundamental premise of public relations to deliver external stakeholder behavior change ? the kind that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

Mistake #4 -- you fail to get the creative potential of your assigned PR team or agency which you need to positively impact the behaviors of the very outside audiences that MOST affect your unit.

Here's one way to reverse that hurtful process. Take a look at this fundamental public relations blueprint. 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.

Such a blueprint will broaden your public relations field of fire and put its primary focus where it belongs, on your unit's key external stakeholder behaviors.

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

Before you begin such a makeover, make certain the public relations people assigned to your unit really believe ? deep down -- 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.

Sit down with them and discuss your plan for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions like these: 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 or procedures?

Luckily for you, your PR people are in the perception and behavior business to begin with, so they can really do a job for you on this crucially important opinion monitoring project. Professional survey firms are always available, but they can be very expensive. Nevertheless, whether it's your people or a survey firm asking the questions, your objective is to identify untruths if not outright lies, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions .

Then you must carefully select which of the above aberrations becomes your corrective public relations goal ? clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct the false assumption or fix certain other inaccuracies.

Selecting the wrong strategy to show you how to reach your goal is like eating corned beef and cabbage without the horseradish mustard and potatoes. Fact is, you can achieve your PR goal by picking the right strategy from the three choices available to you, change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. But be sure your new strategy dovetails nicely with that new public relations goal.

But what will you say when you finally get the opportunity to address your key stakeholder audience that will help persuade them to your way of thinking?

Select your best writer to prepare the message because s/he must put together some very special, corrective language. 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 have in mind.

Happily, the next step is easy. You select communications tactics to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Making certain that 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 many others.

Experience shows that HOW one communicates often affects the credibility of the message. So, you may wish to deliver it in small getogethers like meetings and presentations rather than through a higher-profile media announcement.

Time to look for signs of progress. And that means 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.

Aren't we fortunate that these matters usually can be accelerated by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

This workable public relations blueprint 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.

The people you deal with 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 by doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external audiences to action.

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 1050 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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