Just What Kind of PR Matters to You?

Parties, videos, booklets and column plugs?

Or public relations that does something positive and directly about those important outside audiences of yours whose behaviors most affect your operation?

How happy are you -- as a business, non-profit or association manager -- when you see your PR folks futzing around with special events, brochures, press releases and TV talk show mentions?

Especially at a time when you probably need to create the kind of key stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives?

What it comes down to is this: are you simply looking for publicity, or do you want public relations that really CAN change individual perception and lead to equally changed stakeholder behaviors that help you get your PR money's worth?

If that sounds more like it, here's the roadmap for you: 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.

Here's where that roadmap can go: customers starting to make repeat purchases; membership applications on the rise; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; community leaders beginning to seek you out; welcome bounces in show room visits; prospects starting to do business with you; higher employee retention rates, capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way, and even politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Do you believe your PR team will accept such a blueprint? Will they show commitment to its implementation, starting with key audience perception monitoring? Fortunately, your PR people are already in the perception and behavior business, so they should be of real use for this initial opinion monitoring project.

What they really need to accept is why it's SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Namely, the reality that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Review your game plan with them, especially details for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions like these: how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? Are you familiar with our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

You may find that using professional survey firms to do the opinion monitoring work can be costly so, as noted, you may wish to use those PR folks of yours in that capacity since they're already in the perception and persuasion business. But, whether it's your people or a survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

At this juncture, you want a PR goal that does something about the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. It may be to straighten out that dangerous misconception? Or correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentially painful rumor cold?

Naturally, without the right strategy to tell you how to proceed, you won't get there at all, So please remember that you have just three strategic options available to you when it comes to doing something about perception and opinion. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick will taste like whipped cream on your barbequed ribs, so be sure your new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You wouldn't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.

Fact is, it's always a challenge to create an actionable message that will help persuade an audience to your way of thinking. Nevertheless, you must produce that well-written message and send it to members of your target audience. So you must use your strongest writer because s/he must build some very special, corrective language. Words that are not merely compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you want.

With draft copy in hand, you move on to the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. There are scores available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But you must be certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach people like your audience members.

The need for a progress report will crop up about now which is your signal to begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You'll want to use many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session. But now, you will be on red alert for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

Please remember that efforts such as these usually can be accelerated simply by adding more communications tactics and increasing their frequencies.

Experience shows that the kind of public relations that will matter most to you will be PR that recognizes that the people you deal with behave like everyone else ? they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. Which means you must move rapidly to create the kind of key stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

end

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] Word count is 1070 including guidelines and resource box. 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 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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