As a business, non-profit or association manager, let the tacticians handle the special events, brochures and press releases from now on.
You have better things to do.
Like demanding the real results you’re entitled to, and for which you’ve paid good money! Results, that is, that will come about when you do something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of yours that most affect your operation. In particular, when you persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, then help move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
In other words, good public relations can alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences. And that can help business, non-profit and association managers like you, achieve their managerial objectives.
How do I know? Because 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.
Luckily, here’s what can materialize from this approach: prospects starting to work with you; capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; welcome bounces in show room visits; membership applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; community leaders beginning to seek you out, and even politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.
Clearly, your first priority will be involving your public relations people by getting them on board this particular approach to PR. They must buy into why it’s so important to know how your outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Be especially certain they accept the reality that negative perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can damage your organization.
Take the time necessary to lay out how you will monitor and gather 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?
Take comfort from the fact that your PR people are already in the perception and behavior business and can be of real use for the initial opinion monitoring project. Professional survey firms are always available, of course, but that can be a budget buster. But, whether it’s your people or a survey firm who handles the questioning, the objective is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions.
Now, you identify which of the problems outlined above becomes your corrective public relations goal – clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct the false assumption or fix a variety of other possible inaccuracies?
The truth of the matter is, you can meet that goal only when you select the right strategy from the three choices available to you. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Picking the wrong strategy is about as cool as using cajun spices in your Tiramasu! So please be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You wouldn’t want to select “change" when the facts dictate a “reinforce" strategy.
Some regard this as the toughest part of the job - create a persuasive message aimed at members of your target audience. Yes, it’s always a challenge to put together action-forcing language that will help persuade any audience to your way of thinking.
And so, since s/he must create that very special, corrective language, be certain you have your best writer on the assignment. You need words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you desire.
From here on in, things get easier. For example, identify the communications tactics you need to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Insuring that the tactics you select have a record of reaching folks like your audience members, 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.
Stay alert to the fact that the credibility of the message can be dependent on the credibility of its delivery method. Which means you may wish to deliver it in small getogether-like meetings and presentations rather than through a higher- profile media announcement.
When you receive requests for progress reports, consider yourself alerted to the need for you and your PR team to undertake 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 now, you will be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.
Don’t fret if things seem to be slowing down. Your PR program usually can be accelerated by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.
When all is said and done, the bottom line is, this workable public relations blueprint will help you persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to behave in a way that leads to the success of your department, division or subsidiary.
So, stop doing public relations the hard way.
The public relations rules that will best serve any business, non-profit or association manager, read this way: the people you deal with do, in fact, behave like everyone else – they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. Strongly suggesting that you deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move your key external audiences to actions you desire.
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, writes and speaks to business, non-profit and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co. ; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc. ; VP-PR, Olin Corp. ; VP-PR, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. ; director of communi- cations, 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.