Do You See PRs Real Value?

As a business, non-profit or association manager, do you see the value in doing something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of yours that most affect your operation?

Do you see the value in persuading those key outside folks to your way of thinking?

Do you see the value in moving them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed?

Then you must see the value in good public relations that alters individual perception leading to changed behaviors among those key outside people. And further, that helps managers like you achieve your managerial objectives.

If you see those values, you also see PR's REAL value. And you are a lucky manager!

Truth is, you probably should expand your view of public relations to emphasize the behaviors of your unit's key outside audiences rather than publicity placements, special events, brochures and press releases.

Why should you go to that trouble? Because the people with whom you interact every day behave like everyone else ? they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. Which means you should deal effectively with those perceptions (and their follow-on behaviors) by doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external audiences to action.

Luckily, your own carefully tailored PR plan can make the job a lot easier. I'm talking about a plan like this. People act on their own 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.

Take a few minutes to consider what might result from such activity. Community leaders beginning to seek you out; prospects starting to do business with you; customers making repeat purchases; rising membership applications; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; welcome bounces in show room visits; and new approaches by capital givers and specifying sources not to mention politicians and legislators viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Who will do this specialized kind of work? Your own public relations people? Folks assigned to your operation? An outside PR agency team? But regardless where they come from, they need to be committed to you and your PR plan beginning with key audience perception monitoring.

Be certain that the PR people assigned to you are serious about knowing how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. They must accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Go over your PR plan with them, especially how you will monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. For instance, how much do you know about our chief executive? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

If the budget is available, don't hesitate to use professional survey firms in the perception monitoring phases of your program. But 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.

With the right PR goal, you should be able to deal handily with the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Your new goal could call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor dead in its tracks.

Now you must take pains to select the right strategy, one that tells you how to move forward. Keep in mind that there are just three strategic options available to you when it comes to handling a perception and opinion challenge. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Since the wrong strategy pick will taste like onion gravy on your key lime pie, be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

While it's tough to write tight and strong, you must write such a strong message and aim it at members of your target audience. Because crafting action-forcing language to persuade an audience to your way of thinking is tough work, you need your first-string varsity writer because s/he must create some very special, corrective language. Words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to correct something and shift perception/opinion towards your point of view leading to the behaviors you are targeting.

Now it's time to select the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. You can do this after you run the draft by your PR people for impact and persuasiveness. There are dozens available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

As you may be aware, a message's believability can depend on the credibility of the means used to deliver it. So you may decide to unveil it before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases.

Requests for progress reports signal you and your PR team to begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session can be used again. But this time, you will be watching carefully for signs that the problem perception is being altered in your direction.

Occasionally, momentum will slow, but you can always speed up matters by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

Thus, what you really want PR's value to accomplish is to persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to behave in a way that leads to the success of your unit.

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 1175 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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