Press releases, broadcast plugs and brochures aside,
the real public relations breakthrough for business,
non-profit, public entity and association managers
occurs when they plan for and create the kind of
external stakeholder behavior change that leads
directly to achieving their managerial objectives.
And doing so by persuading those key outside
folks to their way of thinking, then moving them to
take actions that allow their department, group,
division or subsidiary to succeed.
As the smoke of battle clears, what those managers
have is a sound public relations strategy combined
with effective communications tactics leading directly
to the bottom line – perception altered, behaviors
modified, employer/client satisfied.
That’s when managers like that realize they need a
public relations game plan if they are to get all their
team members and organizational colleagues working
towards the same external stakeholder behaviors.
While there are many such plans, there is one that can
keep a manager’s public relations effort “on message,”
and here it is: 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.
Of course, nothing succeeds like success so what a
manager might see when he or she approaches PR
this way might include: improved relations with
government agencies and legislative bodies; a
rebound in showroom visits; membership
applications on the rise; new thoughtleader and
special event contacts; capital givers or specifying
sources looking your way; new proposals for
strategic alliances and joint ventures; fresh
community service and sponsorship opportunities;
prospects starting to work with you; customers
making repeat purchases; and even stronger
relationships with the educational, labor, financial
and healthcare communities.
Your professional staff, as might be expected, will
prove to be vitally important. But, will you use your
regular public relations staff? People assigned to you
from above ? Or will it be PR agency staff?
Nevertheless, they must be committed to you as the
senior project manager, and to the PR blueprint
starting with key audience perception monitoring.
Your best investment may be taking as much time as
needed to satisfy yourself that team members really
believe that it’s crucially important to know how your
most important outside audiences perceive your
operations, products or services. Be certain they buy
the reality that perceptions almost always lead to
behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
By all means, go over the PR blueprint with staff, in
particular your plan 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 exchange? How much do you know
about our services or products and employees? Have
you experienced problems with our people or
Yes, you can always retain professional survey counsel
for 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
The data you collect, obviously, will call for you to
do something about the most
serious distortions you discovered during your key
audience perception monitoring. This new public
relations goal might call for straightening out that
dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross
inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor.
If you are to be successful, you’re going to need a solid
strategy backing up that new goal. A strategy
that clearly indicates to you and the PR staff how to
proceed. But do 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. The wrong strategy pick
will taste like liver-stuffed ravioli. So, be certain the
new strategy fits well with your new public relations
goal. It goes without saying that you don’t want to
select “change” when the facts dictate a reinforce”
Because persuading an audience to your way of
thinking is no easy task, you must prepare a powerful
corrective message to be aimed at members of your
target audience.Your PR folks must come up with
words that are not only compelling, persuasive and
believable, but clear and factual. Only in this way
will you be able to correct a perception by shifting
opinion towards your point of view, leading to the
behaviors you are targeting.
Decide jointly with your staff if your message’s
impact and persuasiveness measure up. Then select
the communications tactics most likely to carry that
message to the attention of your target audience.
There are scores of available tactics. From
speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to
consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters,
personal meetings and many others. But be sure that
those you pick are known to reach folks just like your
You may decide to kick off the corrective message
by unveiling the message before smaller gatherings
rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news
releases. This is because the credibility of the message
itself can actually depend on the perception of its
You and your PR people should plan another visit to
the field where you can gather data for a followup
perception monitoring session with members of
your external audience. You’ll need comparative data
to produce progress reports, and you’ll want to use
many of the same questions used in the first
benchmark session. Only this time, you will be
watching very carefully for signs that the bad news
perception is being altered in your direction.
There will be periods in which momentum slows, so
be prepared to accelerate matters with more
communications tactics and increased frequencies.
By this time, what you have done is move beyond
tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs
and press releases to achieve the very best public
relations has to offer.
Better yet, by reducing your preoccupation with
communications tactics in favor of a high-impact public
relations plan, you insure that never again will you fail
to persuade those key outside folks to your way of
thinking, or move them to take actions that allow your
department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Please feel free to publish this article in your ezine,
newsletter, offline publication or website. Only
requirement: you must use the Robert A. Kelly byline
and resource box.
Robert A. Kelly © 2006
Bob Kelly counsels and writes for business, non-profit and
association managers about using the fundamental premise of public
relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has authored
245 articles on the subject which are listed at EzineArticles.com, click
Expert Author, click Robert A. Kelly. 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.