Managers: Why Not PR Like This?

I mean public relations that presumes from the get-go that the right message, strategy and communications tactics can change perceptions among each of your business, non- profit or association audiences. And do so in a way that produces the behaviors you need to achieve your objectives.

It all comes together when you persuade those important outside audiences to your way of thinking by doing something about their perceptions, thus moving many of them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed.

I believe the Rosetta Stone that allows such "magic" to happen is the fundamental premise of public relations, and it looks like this: 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.

And the payoffs can be manifold. Welcome increases in sales floor activity; customers starting to make repeat purchases; capital givers and specifying sources showing up on your doorstep; new suggestions for joint ventures and strategic alliances; prospects sniffing around; local thoughtleaders beginning to seek you out, and new recognition of you and your operation as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Meet with the public relations professionals employed by, or assigned to your unit and get two matters clearly understood. Make certain they accept 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.

Because your public relations staff is already in the perception and behavior business, they really should play a direct role in the initial opinion monitoring project. You can always hire a professional survey firm, but that's the expensive way to do it. The objective of whoever asks the questions of members of your target audience is to identify inaccuracies, false assumptions, untruths, unfounded rumors, misconceptions and other negativities.

The questioners 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?"

The next task will be to select the newly discovered negative that could most impact your organization. And that becomes your public relations goal.

For example, is that misconception a clear and present danger? Or does that inaccuracy represent an even more dangerous potential? Or does that unfounded rumor you turned up look like it could turn into the hottest fire of all?

No one ever reached a public relations goal without 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.

And please be certain that the strategy you choose fits well with the new PR goal.

Perhaps 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.

The message needs professional writing, 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.

Relatively speaking, the next step is a pleasure. Here, 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 speeches, emails and brochures to media interviews, newsletters and special events. One caution, how you communicate can affect the message's credibility. So it may be more effective to deliver it in small meetings or events rather than through high-profile media announcements.

Understandably, those around you will press for indications that progress is being made. Which calls for a second perception monitoring go-around with members of your 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.

Keep in mind that the effort can always be accelerated by the addition of more communications tactics and/or, of course, by increasing their frequencies.

So, Mr/Ms manager, why not PR like this? When you persuade those important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed, you have a public relations success on your hands.

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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