Especially powerful 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. All the
more so when they persuade those key outside folks to
their way of thinking, then move them to take actions
that allow their department, group, division or subsidiary
What they will have done, of course, is apply public
relations strategy to doing something positive about the
behaviors of the very outside audiences that MOST
affect their operations.
And the payoff from combining sound public relations
strategy with effective communications tactics is achieving
the bottom line – perception altered, behaviors modified,
And now the hard part. What steps must managers take
to apply this public relations approach to their operation?
By employing public relations activity that creates
first perception, then behavior change within that key
You can do it if you accept the fact that the right PR
really CAN alter individual perception and lead to
those changed behaviors you need. Plus, that right PR
comes with its own blueprint: 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
Obviously, you will need a lot more than news releases,
brochures, broadcast plugs and fun-filled special events
to get a satisfactory return on your PR investment.
Among the results business, non-profit, public entity and
association managers can expect are renewed interest
from your key external audiences, new proposals for
strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in
showroom visits; membership applications on the rise;
new community service and sponsorship opportunities;
and even new thoughtleader and special event contacts.
As time passes, you will notice such customers making
repeat purchases; prospects reappearing; stronger
relationships with the educational, labor, financial and
healthcare communities; improved relations with
government agencies and legislative bodies, and perhaps
even capital givers or specifying sources looking your way.
A caution here. Satisfy yourself that your PR people are
really on board for the whole effort because you want your
key outside audiences to really perceive your operations,
products or services in a positive light. Reassure yourself
that your PR staff accept the basic truth that perceptions
almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your
And by all means, invest the time to review your public
relations plan with your entire staff. Especially so with
regard to how you will gather and monitor perceptions
by questioning members of your most important outside
audiences. Questions like these: how much do you know
about our organization? How much do you know about
our services or products and employees? Have you had
prior contact with us and were you pleased with the how
things went? Have you experienced problems with our
people or procedures?
It’s our good fortune that our team members are also in
the perception and behavior business and can pursue the
same objective as the professional survey firms might
were they to handle the perception monitoring phases
of your program: identify untruths, false assumptions,
unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and
any other negative perception that might translate into
Now it’s time to directly address the problems that
appeared during your key audience perception
monitoring. Probably, your new public relations goal
will call for straightening out that dangerous
misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or
doing something about that awful rumor.
Let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves how we
plan to reach that PR goal? You have just three strategic
choices when it comes to dealing with a perception or
opinion challenge: create perception where there may
be none, change the perception, or reinforce it.
Unfortunately, selecting a bad strategy will taste like
macadamia mousse on your gnocchi. So be certain the new
strategy fits well with your new public relations goal.
For example, you don’t want to select “change” when
the facts dictate a “reinforce” strategy.
Structuring your corrective message is especially crucial
because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is
the hardest kind of work. And never more so than when
you’re looking for words that are compelling, persuasive,
believable AND clear and factual. Hard work yes, but a
must if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion
towards your point of view, leading to the desired
behaviors. Review your message with your communications
specialists for its impact and persuasiveness.
Being particularly careful to select the precise
communications tactics most likely to reach your target
audience, you will find literally dozens of them available
to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and
brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,
newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Be
certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks
just like your audience members.
Another wrinkle to guard against is this. The very credibility
of your message can depend on how you deliver it. So, until
you’re certain as to its impact, try introducing it initially to
smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile
communications such as news releases or talk show
appearances. Before long, you’ll need to produce a progress
report, which means it’s probably time for you and your PR
folks to get back out in the field for a second perception
monitoring session with members of your external audience.
You can use the same questions used in the first benchmark
session, but now you must stay alert for signs that your
communications tactics have worked and that the negative
perception is being altered in your direction.
I’m as impatient as the next person, so I suspect the same may
be true of you. If things slow down, you can always accelerate
matters with a broader selection of communications tactics
AND increased frequencies.
Managerial public relations applied this way can be a beautiful
thing to watch or, better yet, to happen to you. It also suggests
that managers like yourself can take a giant step forward when
you use public relations to do something positive about the
behaviors of the very outside audiences that MOST affect your
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, 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. mailto:[email protected]