PRs Big Bang Theory

Lots of theories out there about public relations.

Everything from "publicity's the thing!," "the care and feeding of reputations and "sales support is primary" to "gain and hold public acceptance," and "issue management's the thing." among many, many others.

But for business, non-profit and association managers, the big, bang theory of public relations trumps them all when it alters individual perception leading to changed behaviors among their key outside audiences, thus helping them achieve their managerial objectives.

As a manager, you can do exactly the same by doing something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation.

In particular when you persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, then help move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

If there's a secret behind such "big bang" performance, it probably 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.

A grab-bag of results can occur. The payoff can make your day: fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers starting to make repeat purchases; membership applications on the rise; 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.

But you'll need more then zippy special events, slick brochures and punchy press releases if you really want to get the PR you paid for.

At the same time, as you no doubt realize, a key plank in your PR platform requires that your most important outside audiences really perceive your operations, products or services in a positive light. This is so vital that your PR people must buy into the effort from the get-go. Be especially careful that they accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.

How you will gather and monitor opinion by questioning members of your most important outside audiences will be of interest to everyone on the team. So take the time to review the PR blueprint in detail with your staff. Discuss questions that will be asked: How much do you know about our organization? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Professional survey people can always gather opinion data for the perception monitoring phases of your program, IF the budget is available. But always remember that your PR people are also in the perception and behavior business and can pursue the same objective: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

We must say a few words about your all-important public relations goal. It must speak to the problems that cropped up during your key audience perception monitoring. Probably, it will require correcting that gross inaccuracy, straightening out that dangerous misconception, or doing something about that damaging rumor.

Because any goal must have a strategy to show you how to get where you want to go, you get to pick from just three strategic choices available to handle a perception or opinion challenge: create perception where there may be none, change the perception, or reinforce it. By the way, the wrong strategy pick will taste like onion gravy on your sea scallops, so be certain the new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. For example, you don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

To persuade an audience to your way of thinking, you need words that are compelling, persuasive and believable, as well as clear and factual. In other words, the right, corrective phrases. This must be done if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors.

And to carry your words to the attention of your target audiences, you need communications tactics likely to reach them. First sit down again with your communications specialists and read your message for impact and persuasiveness. Then select from dozens of available tactics such as speeches, facility tours, emails, brochures, consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But again, be certain that the tactics you use are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

Because the credibility of any message can be called into question because of its delivery method, think about introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications such as news releases or talk-show appearances.

At the first mention of progress reports, think of it as your reminder that the PR team should return to the field for a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Asking many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session, you'll now be alert for signs that your communications tactics have worked and that the negative perception is being altered in your direction.

When things seem to be dragging, and you decide to move things along a little faster, do so by accelerating your PR program with a wider selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.

The public relations big bang theory has at its core, the behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours that most affect your operation. Namely, the creation of external stakeholder behavior change leading directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

And the fastest way to accomplish that is to persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, thus moving them to take actions that allow your business, non-profit or association to succeed.

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 1135 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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