Instead of viewing public relations’ big guns as broadcast
plugs, press releases, brochures and fun-filled events, as
many managers do, how about a sound public relations
strategy combined with effective communications tactics
leading directly to the bottom line – perception altered,
behavior modified, employer/client/manager satisfied?
That’s what can happen when business, non-profit, public
entity and association managers plan for and create the
kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads
directly to achieving their managerial objectives. Especially
when they persuade those key outside folks to their way of
thinking, and then move them to take actions that allow
their department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Those managers have made a winning bet by using public
relations to do something positive about the behaviors of
the very outside audiences that MOST affect their operations.
First step in that direction must be creating a high impact
public relations blueprint designed to get every
member of your PR team working towards the same
external stakeholder behaviors.
As you might suspect, we have such a blueprint for your
review: 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.
This approach usually causes the fur to fly. For example,
new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;
a rebound in showroom visits; customers making repeat
purchases; capital givers or specifying sources looking
your way; prospects starting to work with you; fresh
community service and sponsorship opportunities;
improved relations with government agencies and
legislative bodies; membership applications on the rise;
new thoughtleader and special event contacts; and even
stronger relationships with the educational, labor,
financial and healthcare communities.
Whom, do you suggest, will do the work? Whoever,
they must be committed to you as the senior project
manager, and to the PR blueprint starting with key
audience perception monitoring.
Important questions remain, like who is going to do
the work? The usual public relations staff? Specialists
from a PR agency? People on-loan from above? At the
same time you’re sorting out that challenge, you’ll be
checking to insure that your team members accept the
reasons as to why it’s SO 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.
Periodically, go over the public relations blueprint with
your team members, especially 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 interchange? How much do you know about our
services or products and employees? Have you
experienced problems with our people or procedures?
Goes without saying that you can always employ
professional survey counsel for the perception monitoring
phases of your program, although it can be expensive.
But luckily, 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.
Time now to establish once and for all your public
relations goal. Here you must do something about the
most serious distortions you discovered during your
key audience perception monitoring. Your new public
relations goal might call for straightening out that
dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross
inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor.
The next step is just as important because it tells you
how to reach that brand new PR goal. To keep things
simple, note that there are only 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. Of course, the wrong strategy
pick will taste like chili butter on your pralines, so be
certain the new strategy fits well with your new public
relations goal. Naturally, you don’t want to select
“change” when the facts dictate a “reinforce” strategy.
Here we are at the time when you must produce a
powerful corrective message aimed at members of
your target audience. However, persuading an audience
to your way of thinking is not easy! And that’s why
your PR folks must come up with words that are not
only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear
and factual. This is how you will be able to correct a
perception by shifting opinion towards your point
of view, leading to the behaviors you are targeting.
Happy with the new language? Are the impact and
persuasiveness good enough to do the job? If they are,
you can proceed to selecting the communications
tactics most likely to carry your message to the
attention of your target audience. You can pick from
dozens that are available. 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.
Yet another question, would you rather unveil your
message before smaller gatherings rather than using
higher-profile tactics such as news releases? Reason
is, the credibility of a message can depend on the
credibility of its delivery method.
For progress measurement purposes, you and your PR
team should be prepared to return to the field and
start work on a second perception monitoring session
with members of your external audience. You’ll want
to use many of the same questions used in the first
benchmark session. But this time, you will be
watching very carefully for signs that the bad news
perception is being altered in your direction.
Momentum can always flag. Fortunately, you have at
your disposal the option of speeding up matters with more
communications tactics and increased frequencies.
Yes, it can pay dividends when a manager thinks
about public relations this way. Especially when s/he
creates the kind of external stakeholder behavior
change that leads directly to achieving that manager’s
most important operating objectives.
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. Word count is 1190 including
guidelines and box. Robert A. Kelly © 2006.
Bob Kelly counsels and writes for business, non-profit, public
entity and association managers about using the fundamental
premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives.
He has authored 250 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.
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