Between Now and Economic Recovery

There's still time to review your public relations program like Navy flight crews go over a fighter jet.

Reason is, you need to fine-tune your public relations activity looking forward to a snap-back in the economy, when you'll need all guns blazing.

First thing to check?

Do you know for certain what your most important external audiences think about you and your organization? Your answer is central to your success because those key perceptions lead to predictable behaviors, good or bad.

Here's a checklist.

Take another look at those outside audiences and put them in priority order. Decide which is most important to your organization's success, and let's work on that one.

Now, get out there and speak with members of that #1 target audience. And ask a lot of questions about how they feel about you and especially your organization.

Do you sense negative undercurrents? Have rumors crept into their consciousness? Are perceptions of your products, services and pricing what you want them to be?

The responses you receive let you set your public relations goal. For example, impact individual perception in a positive way by clearing up pricing inaccuracies or replacing rumor with truth.

However, to do something about that goal, a strategy is needed showing you how to reach it.

You're fortunate that you can choose from only three possible strategies. Create opinion (perceptions) where none exist, change existing opinion, or reinforce it. The challenge here is to select the strategy most likely to achieve your public relations goal.

Now comes the toughest job of all - creating the message you will send to your target audience. You don't want to goof the message, because it is central to achieving that goal.

First, it must set down the clarifying facts clearly and persuasively. It must take on the issue in question directly, and in an authoritative and compelling manner. And it must be as brief and specific as possible. One way to test message effectiveness is to try it out on several people, being careful to explain how it is intended to create, change or reinforce their opinions.

Here, the real fun begins. You get to pick your "beasts of burden," those communications tactics that will carry your first class message to the right ears and eyeballs in your target audience.

Happily, there are dozens of communications tactics available to you, in all shapes and sizes, to suit the communications challenge at hand, and your pocketbook. You might choose tactics such as community briefings, personal contacts, Internet emails or electronic magazines, news releases, speeches, brochures or even special events and newsworthy surveys.

The moment of truth comes when you go back to members of your target audience and remonitor their responses to your questions. Have perceptions changed? Do answers to your questions indicate less willingness to believe that rumor? Or do you get more accurate responses compared to inaccurate comments earlier?

This is what you want, a visible change in perception on the part of your key audiences. Once achieved, follow on behaviors almost always lead to organizational success.

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 © 2005.

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 communications, 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.

Visit: http://www.prcommentary.com; [email protected]

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