How Would You Ever Know?

Your important outside audiences behave in ways that stop you from reaching your objectives.

Because you haven't paid much attention to their care and feeding, is it likely you'll know they are placing a hammer lock on your business in time to limit the damage?

With some luck, you might save the day, but why let matters fester until you have a bad situation like this on your hands?

Especially when a proven sequence can help you alter the perceptions, and thus behaviors of your most important external audiences making the achievement of your business objectives much easier.

Take a quick look at what makes it all possible, the fundamental premise of public relations:

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 perception by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public relations mission is accomplished

Now, put it into action this way.

First, think about those groups of people whose behaviors can really affect your organization. The test for placing a key, external audience on your action list is this: does its behavior affect your business in any way. If the answer is yes, list it.

Let's take the target audience at the top of that list and work it over. Obviously, you need to know how members of that audience perceive you, and that requires that you interact with those members and ask a lot of questions. This is the monitoring phase.

How do they think of your organization, if at all? Do they have any problems with you? Do negative thoughts creep into the conversation? Are misconceptions, inaccurate beliefs, even rumors apparent?

As unsettling as these data may be, the silver lining is the fact that they let you establish your public relations goal. Straighten out that misconception, or correct the inaccurate belief, or knock down that rumor once and for all.

Reaching your goal isn't going to happen if you don't have the right strategy. You're fortunate that there are really only three strategy choices: create perceptions (opinion) where there isn't any, change existing opinion, or reinforce it.

Now comes a real challenge ? writing the message that will alter that perception. It must make a compelling case, so think about it carefully. In order to persuade, it must state clearly that the offending perception is not a true perception. Instead, you lay out the truth in a credible manner, keeping in mind your create-change-reinforce strategy choices.

Getting that message to members of your target audience is the least complicated step in the problem solving sequence. There are dozens of communications tactics available to you that can reach those members. They range from open houses, announcement luncheons, press releases and speeches to articles, emails and newspaper and radio interviews, and many others.

Are you making any progress? Only way to tell is to go back to other members of your target audience and ask the same questions all over again. Only now, you watch carefully for signs that their perceptions reflect the corrections contained in your message.

If you're not satisfied with the movement in perception, you should consider using a wider selection of communications tactics with a proven record of reaching that audience. You might want to use them more frequently to increase their impact.

Also, your message should be evaluated again for impact and factual content.

Obviously, if you pay regular attention to your most important external audiences, you will be aware that certain behaviors are beginning to exert a negative impact on your organization.

Using a proven sequence like this to deal with those impacts insures that you will always be aware of brewing target audience behaviors that could hurt your organization.

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 © 2003.

About The Author

Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks about the fundamental premise of public relations. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press secretary, The White House. mailto:[email protected]. Visit:

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