What People Think Can Kill Managers

Robert A. Kelly

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By delivering a body blow to their operation when business, non-profit, government agency or association managers, with public relations reporting to them, overlook assembling the PR resources and action planning needed to alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors among their most important outside audiences.

Those managers’ guilt worsens when they compound matters by failing to persuade those key external audience members to their way of thinking, and then overlook moving them to take actions that allow their department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.

What such managers often have in common is a single- minded preoccupation with simple tactics like press releases, broadcast plugs, special events and brochures, which denies them the best that public relations has to offer.

On the other hand, approaching a public relations challenge as outlined in the paragraphs above, means you, as manager, are doing something positive about the behaviors of the very outside audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation. It is then that PR creates the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your most important managerial objectives.

But managers 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 PR blueprints do vary, here’s one that can keep a manager’s public relations effort, as they say, “on message:" 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.

Since “results usually tell the tale, " this is what a manager might expect when he or she approaches PR this way: 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.

The public relations people reporting to you are of the utmost importance. But, who will you use? Your regular public relations staff? People assigned to you from above? Or could it be PR agency staff? Regardless, they must be committed to you as the senior project manager, and to the PR blueprint starting with key audience perception monitoring.

Once the right specialists are aboard, 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.

Sit down with your PR troops and go over the blueprint with them, 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 procedures?

The use of professional survey counsel for the perception monitoring phases of your program is always an option. But 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.

To go further, you must set down your public relations goal from which you can do something about the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. The new public relations goal might call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor.

Of course, you need a solid strategy to achieve success, one 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 sea salt on your Lingonberry pie. 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" strategy.

Time to sit down at your computer to prepare and 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.

Bring your communications specialists into the planning cycle and, together, 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 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 the those you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

This is when 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 the message itself can actually depend on the perception of its delivery method.

Using progress reports might occur to someone at this point, which should lead your PR team 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.

While things can always slow down, you can then accelerate matters with more communications tactics and increased frequencies.

But now is the time to move beyond tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs and press releases to achieve the very best public relations has to offer.

Thus, the bottom line for managers wishing to avoid death-by-bad-PR is this: the right public relations can alter the individual perception among your key external audiences leading to changed behaviors which, in turn, lead directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

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. Word count is 1285 including guidelines and resource box.
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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