Managers: Why PR is SO Key

When outside audiences important to your operation do not understand what you are all about or, worse, harbor misconceptions, inaccuracies, untruths and false assumptions about you, you are likely to suffer negative, key audience behaviors that can prevent you from achieving your operating objectives.

As a business, non-profit or association manager, you simply cannot avoid such consequences when you allow external target audiences to hold negative perceptions about you which lead inevitably to those hurtful behaviors.

If this describes your operation, why not do something about it now?

Spend some time with the public relations people assigned to your department, division or subsidiary. Review together the fundamental premise of public relations which contains the answer to the challenges outlined above.

It goes this 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.

Consider the kinds of results such a blueprint can produce. Prospects prowling about; new joint venture and strategic alliance proposals; local thoughtleaders beginning to seek

you out; customers making repeat purchases; fresh contacts by capital givers and specifying sources; unexpected sales floor activity; and welcome recognition of you and your operation as key members of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Make certain your PR team accepts the fact that inaccurate perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can hinder your operation. And that they may be called upon to assist the key target audience perception monitoring effort.

Now, because they are already in the perception and behavior business, they really should be directly involved in the initial opinion monitoring project. You can always hire a professional survey firm, but that can cost a lot of money. At any rate, those who ask the questions of members of your target audience want to identify inaccuracies, false assumptions, untruths, unfounded rumors, misconceptions and similar problems.

Interviewers will query members of that important outside audience asking them "Do you know anything about our organization? Are you aware at all of our products or services? Have you ever had contact with us? Or have you ever had a problem with our people or procedures?"

Here, you decide which newly discovered negative becomes your equally new, top priority, public relations goal.

Possibilities include: is that misconception a clear and present danger? Does that inaccuracy represent a very dangerous potential? Or does that unfounded rumor you turned up look like it could turn into the hottest fire of all?

With your public relations goal in hand, you'll need a strategy showing how to reach that goal. Fortunately, where perception and opinion are concerned, you have just three strategic choices. Change existing perception, create perception where there isn't any, or reinforce that existing perception.

Whatever you do, be sure that the strategy you choose is a neat fit with your new PR goal.

As you might suspect, the most difficult challenge is preparing the corrective message to be communicated to your key stakeholder audience in a manner that will help persuade them to your way of thinking.

Professional writing is the key requirement -- corrective language, if you will. And this language must be not merely compelling and persuasive, but clear, factual and believable if it is to move perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the change in behaviors you have in mind.

At this point, things get easier because, now, you identify the means for communicating your message to your target audience, making certain the tactics you select are on record as to reaching the same people as those that make up your particular audience. There are scores of communications tactics available ranging from consumer meetings; facility tours, speeches, emails and brochures to media interviews, newsletters, personal contacts and special events. One caution, HOW you communicate can affect the message's credibility. Consider that it may be more effective to deliver it at small meetings or events rather than through high-profile media announcements.

It won't be long before your colleagues and clients will look for signs that progress is being made. Which means a second perception monitoring go-around with members of that external audience. You'll again use many of the same questions used in your initial benchmark perception monitoring session. Difference now is that you will be on the alert and watching closely for signs that the offending perception is being altered in your direction.

Happily for all concerned, the campaign can always be accelerated by the addition of more communications tactics and/or, of course, by increasing their frequencies.

Thus the question, Mr/Ms manager, why NOT PR like this? After all, persuading you external target audiences to your way of thinking, then moving them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed, means, in all likelihood, that you have a public relations success to celebrate.

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:

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