Definition of Security: Small Business Owner

Yes, that IS security when nobody can downsize you because you OWN that small business of yours! But preserving that special advantage is a never-ending job. In fact, do you know what needs to be preserved more than anything else?

Well, since they hold the future of your business in their hands, I believe that an outside group of people whose behaviors can effect your business' survival more than any other, deserves your rapt attention.

What I'd like you to conclude from that is, what your key target audiences think about you can take you down in a New York minute!

* customers displeased with your product or service don't come back

* prospects who don't know about you don't buy

* employees who believe you don't care about them lean on their oars

* when minority folks believe you discriminate, you have new problems

* and if community residents believe your business is a lousy place to work, you have hiring and retention problems.

Even though help is on the way, you can't work on everything at once, so prioritize those key audiences. That is, which external audience is of immediate concern?

The good news is that problems like those above just don't happen when you closely and regularly monitor what those "key publics" think about you. First, you find ways to interact with them.

Then probe what they think about you and the business. In what behaviors are they engaging? What about misunderstandings? Do you see any problems brewing?

When you take the trouble to stay in touch with those folks whose behaviors affect your business the most, you've taken an important first step towards preserving your business.

There's a real sequence here. Once you gather those facts from monitoring your key, target audience, it becomes obvious what your problem is and, thus, the public relations goal. For example, correct that misconception about your product; or reinforce a budding perception that you deliver superior service; or correct a suspicion that you don't put women in positions of responsibility.

With your goal in-hand, how are you going to achieve it? You need a strategy which, in public relations, only comes in three flavors: create opinion (perception) where none may exist; change existing opinion, or reinforce it.

So, you've set your public relations goal AND a very doable strategy. Now, what must your message say to implement that strategy? It must address the "fix" you decided upon when you set the goal. It must be clear, specific, persuasive and, above all, believable. As you write it, remain sensitive to what you are trying to do: change somebody's perception which almost always leads to the change in behavior you really want. Does your message meet this challenge?

Many would now find themselves with a great goal, a super strategy and a first class message, and nowhere to go.

But not you. Here, you select the "beasts of burden" you need to carry that message to the eyes and ears of those members of your key, target audience whom you need to reach and move to action.

And that means communications tactics. There are more available to you than we have time or space to list. Among them: community briefings, seminars, special events, news releases, speeches, brochures and personal contacts.

Is your work completed? Nope, because how will you track your progress? The answer is, Round 2 of the monitoring job. Interact with members of your prime outside audience all over again, carefully evaluating what you hear. If the goal was "correct a misconception," are you beginning to notice signs of that correction? Do those you talk to show, however little, a better understanding of the facts of the matter as represented in your message?

What's the bottom line? Behaviors, of course.

When your messages and communications tactics combine to alter a questionable perception held by members of your key, target audience, certain behaviors will soon follow. Among them, favorable mentions in the media and in individual speeches and lectures; increased patronage for your business; "corrected" perceptions by influential members of that important group of people, and many other similar signs that your message and your communications tactics have, indeed, "drawn blood."

Happily, what that adds up to is a successful public relations effort.

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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