Why Not PR That Gets Real Results?

And not results you can measure only in terms of magazine circulation, TV audience numbers, or news release pickups.

But rather, results that come from a public relations effort that creates the kind of key stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

In other words, results that come from doing something positive about those important outside audiences whose behaviors most affect your operation. Particularly as you persuade those key external audiences to your way of thinking by nudging them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

When you think about it, public relations boils down to these realities: the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors that help you win. But your public relations effort must involve more than parties, videos, booklets and column mentions if you really want to get your money's worth. What you need is a basic schematic that gets everyone working towards the same external audience behaviors insuring that the organization's public relations effort stays sharply focused.

Coincidentally, here is such a schematic! 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 usually accomplished.

Look at some real results that can come from this approach to public relations. Membership applications on the rise; customers making repeat purchases; capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to work with you; and even bounces in showroom visits.

You may be forgiven for wondering how such managers deliver those kinds of results.

They take the time to analyze who among their most important outside audiences behaves in ways that help or hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then, they list them according to how severely those behaviors affect their organization.

On the point, just how do most members of your key outside audiences perceive your organization? If paying for professional survey counsel isn't in the cards (or in the budget!), your PR colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions themselves. Actually, they should be quite familiar with perception and behavior matters since they're already in that business.

So you meet with some of those outside folks asking questions like "Are you familiar with our services or products? Have you ever had contact with anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory encounter?" And if you are that manager, you must be sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies. And watch carefully for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. When you find such, they will need to be corrected, as they inevitably lead to negative behaviors.

Big job now is to pick out the actual, offending perception to be changed, and that becomes your public relations goal. You obviously want to correct those untruths, inaccuracies, misconceptions or false assumptions.

The toughest part of this exercise is that a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there, will taste like hot sauce on your yogurt. So, as you select one of three strategies (create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,) what you want to do is insure that the goal and its strategy match each other. You wouldn't want to select "change existing perception" when current perception is just right suggesting a "reinforce" strategy.

With your strategy in hand, you and your PR staff must create a compelling message carefully written to alter your key target audience's perception, as required by your public relations goal.

An idea to keep in mind: remember that you can always combine your corrective message with another news announcement or presentation which may give it more credibility by reducing the apparent need for such a correction.

The art in preparing such a message lies in the fact that the message you convey must be not only compelling, but quite clear about what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Of course you must be truthful and your position logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that target audience, and actually move perception in your direction.

It's understandable when some folks refer to the communications tactics necessary to move your message to the attention of that key external audience, as "beasts of burden." In reality, they must carry your persuasive new thoughts to the eyes and ears of those important outside people.

The good news is that you have a really wide choice of communications tactics because the list is a long one. It includes letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases and speeches. Or, you might choose radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours or customer briefings. There are scores available and the only selection requirement is that the tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just like the members of your key target audience.

By the way, you can always speed up things by adding more communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.

Around this time, someone is bound to mention progress reports. But you will already be hard at work remonitoring perceptions among your target audience members to test the effectiveness of your communications tactics. Using questions similar to those used during your earlier monitoring session, you'll now become cross-eyed looking for signs that audience perceptions are beginning to move in your general direction.

You need actual changes in behaviors among your most important external audiences, and that's no small matter. In my view, the quality of your public relations results will, and should be directly dependent on whether you spend your PR budget primarily on communications tactics, or the creation 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 1110 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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