What Managers Might Not Know About PR

Robert A. Kelly

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O. K. , you manage something like human resources, distribution, special projects or finance for a business, non- profit, government agency or association. And, oh yes, you’re pretty darn good at what you do.

Trouble is, you may know very little about the public relations someone else is doing on your behalf.

And that could cost you dearly.

Why? If your PR is focused on simple tactics like press releases, broadcast plugs or brochures, you’re not getting the best public relations has to offer a manager like you.

Instead of just tactics, consider using a strategic public relations plan that alters the individual perception of members of your key outside audiences, thus beginning the process of changing their behaviors.

Then, your new PR plan will lead you to actually persuade many of those key outside folks to your managerial way of thinking, helping to move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

So, what are you REALLY doing at this point?

You are using public relations to do something positive about the behaviors of the very outside audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation. Especially welcome when PR creates the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your most important managerial objectives.

Which is why I believe you need a clearcut public relations blueprint designed to get all your team members and organizational colleagues working towards the same external stakeholder behaviors.

A blueprint, say, like this one: 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 accomplished.

This approach to public relations will ring true when results like these appear: capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; a rebound in showroom visits; membership applications on the rise; fresh community service and sponsorship opportunities; new thoughtleader and special event contacts; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat purchases; and even stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities.

Who, would you guess, is going to do the work? Regular public relations staff? Folks assigned to you by those above? Or could it be a PR agency crew? Nevertheless, they must be committed to you as the senior project manager, and to the PR blueprint starting with key audience perception monitoring.

A word of advice. Be certain that your team members really believe deeply 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. Take the time to review your PR 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?

Of course you can always use 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 hurtful behaviors.

At this juncture, you have to set down your public relations goal. Here, you can 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.

It seems obvious, but it bears repeating. To achieve success, you need a solid strategy, one that clearly shows you how to proceed. 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 Braunschweiger on your bread pudding, 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.

In this business, inevitably, you must do some writing. And now’s the time to share a powerful corrective message with members of your target audience. But persuading an audience to your way of thinking is no easy task. Which is why 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.

At a meeting of your communications specialists, decide if your message’s impact and persuasiveness measure up. Then select 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.

Another word of advice. You might want to unveil the 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.

When the topic of progress reports is suggested, you and your PR team should stand alerted to return to the field and start work on a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. In all probability, 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.

On the chance that momentum may slow, try speeding up matters with more communications tactics and increased frequencies.

Here is the central reality of public relations: the right PR can alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors which, in turn, lead directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

Only in this way will you move beyond PR tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs and press releases to achieve the very best public relations has to offer.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net.

Robert A. Kelly © 2005

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 published over 200 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:bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.PRCommentary.com


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