Managers Who Tap Into PRs Value

Business, non-profit and association managers get a ton of satisfaction when they do something really positive about the behaviors of those outside audiences that most affect their operation. Especially when they deliver external stakeholder behavior change, the kind that leads directly to achieving their managerial objectives; and even more so when they persuade those important outside folks to their way of thinking, then move them to take actions that help their department, division or subsidiary succeed.

Or, if this doesn't sound all that familiar, is the money you spend on public relations pretty much dedicated to buying personnel mentions in the newspaper and product plugs on radio talk shows?

Want to branch out a bit and get some core PR benefits?

Start with the fundamental premise of public relations and make sure your PR effort sticks closely to that blueprint. Here, take a quick read: 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.

Then look at the results that could come your way. Welcome bounces in show room visits; community leaders beginning to seek you out; prospects newly interested in doing business with you; capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; membership applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases; politicians and legislators beginning to view you as a key member of the business, non- profit or association communities; and even employee retention rates moving up.

For openers, here are two suggestions for wringing every last benefit out of your public relations budget. 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. Let's work on the number one target audience on that list.

Human nature being what it is, you probably haven't spent much time or effort finding out what most members of that key outside audience think about your organization. You would, however, have these data if you had been regularly sampling target audience perceptions, insuring that these important numbers are handy when you really need them.

But assuming you don't have the budget to accommodate a professional survey team, you and your colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions yourselves. And that means meeting with members of that outside audience and interacting with them by asking questions like "Have you ever met anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience? How much do you know about our services or products?"

Keep your eyes peeled for negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies. And stay alert for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. You'll need to correct any that you discover because experience shows they usually lead to negative behaviors.

To correct such aberrations before they morph into hurtful behaviors, you now select the most serious negative perception. Fixing it becomes your public relations goal.

Of course, a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like roast pork without the garlic. That's why there are three such strategies especially designed to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change existing perception, or reinforce it. Be careful that your new goal and the new strategy match each other. You wouldn't want to select "change existing perception" when current perception is just right calling for a strategy of reinforcement.

Use your best writer to craft a compelling message carefully designed to alter your key target audience's perception, as called for by your public relations goal.

On the announcement itself, making the corrective message a part of another announcement or separate presentation ? could lend more credibility, deemphasizing the fact that a correction is being made.

Nevertheless, the corrective message itself must be very clear about what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Your facts must be double-checked for accuracy and your position must be persuasive and believable if it is to hold the interest of members of that target audience, and really shift perception in your direction.

Selecting the tools you will count on to carry your persuasive new thoughts to the attention of that external audience ? I call such tools Beasts of Burden --will be the easiest task you face.

Communications tactics are everywhere dense, as mathematicians say. They include letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases, speeches, radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, newsletters, group briefings and many others. But you must exercise caution when you pick your tactics. Look for evidence that they reach the same kind of people as those you call your target stakeholders?

Your colleagues will want to know whether progress is being made. And you'll want to be ready for such queries by again monitoring perceptions among your target audience members. But here's the difference the second time around. 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. That's the kind of progress you're looking for.

Lucky for us in PR., we can always put the pedal to the metal by employing additional communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.

Here are two survival tips: Keep your eyes on your most important external stakeholders, the very groups of outside people who have such a big say in your success as a manager.

Then employ an action plan that helps you persuade those important outsiders to view things the way you do, and that leads them to behaviors that result in 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 [email protected] 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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