Maybe You SHOULD Worry About Your PR!
Especially if your public relations budget is all about tactics
like brochures, special events, talking to reporters and press
Please don't get me wrong. Communications tactics are
valuable devices which we call upon from time-to-time to
move a message from here to there.
But, as a business, non-profit or association manager,
you can omit the best public relations has to offer, the crème
de la crème of PR!
Try this on for size. The core public relations mission
pulls together the resources and action planning needed to
alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors
among a business, non-profit, or association's most
important outside audiences. Then it goes on to help a
manager persuade those key folks to his or her way of
thinking, and then, moves them to take actions that
allow their department, group, division or subsidiary
Now, there's a real theory behind that mission, and it's
the underlying premise of public relations: 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.
It's comforting to note that the right public relations
planning really CAN alter individual perception and
lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.
AND equally encouraging when you remember that
your PR effort must demand more than special events,
news releases and talk show tactics if you are to receive
the quality public relations results you believe you deserve.
And those results won't be long in coming, especially when
capital givers or specifying sources begin to look your
way; customers begin to make repeat purchases;
membership applications start to rise; new proposals
for strategic alliances and joint ventures start showing
up; politicians and legislators begin looking at you as
a key member of the business, non-profit or association
communities; welcome bounces in show room visits
occur; community leaders begin to seek you out; and
prospects actually start to do business with you.
Help is at hand because the public relations people
assigned to you can be of real use for your new opinion
monitoring project because they are already in the
perception and behavior business. But be certain that
the PR folks really accept why it's SO important to
know how your most important outside audiences
perceive your operations, products or services. Above
all, be sure they believe that perceptions almost always
result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.
Layout the plans for your PR staff re: monitoring and
gathering perceptions by questioning members of your
most important outside audiences. Ask 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? Are you familiar with our services
or products and employees? Have you experienced
problems with our people or procedures?
Bringing in survey firms to do the opinion gathering
work can cost a lot more than using those PR folks of
yours in that monitoring capacity. But whether it's your
people or a survey firm asking the questions, the
objective remains the same: identify untruths, false
assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies,
misconceptions and any other negative perception that
might translate into hurtful behaviors.
Here, you have to set a goal aiming for action on the
most serious problem areas you uncovered during your
key audience perception monitoring. Will it be to
straighten out that dangerous misconception? Correct
that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentially painful
Naturally a goal requires a strategy to show you how
to reach it. Just three strategic options are available to
you when it comes to solving perception and opinion
problems. Change existing perception, create perception
where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong
strategy pick will taste like spare ribs with lemon sauce.
So be certain your new strategy fits well with your new
public relations goal. You certainly don't want to select
"change" when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.
Now your people must do some good writing. You must
prepare a persuasive message that will help move your key
audience to your way of thinking. It must be a carefully-
written message aimed directly at your key external
audience. Select your very best writer because s/he must
come up with language that is not merely 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 have in mind.
It's time to pick out the communications tactics most likely
to carry your message to the attention of your target
audience. There are many waiting for you. From speeches,
facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings,
media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many
others. But be certain that the tactics you pick are known to
reach folks just like your audience members.
How you communicate your message is a concern because
the credibility of any message is always fragile. Which is
why you may wish to unveil your corrective message
before smaller meetings and presentations rather than
using higher-profile news releases.
If the thought of a progress report appeals to you, you must
begin a second perception monitoring session among
members of your external audience in order to measure
headway. You can use many of the same questions used in
your benchmark session. But this time, you will be on
guard for signs that the bad news perception is being
altered in your direction.
In the event the program slows down, you can always speed
things up by adding more communications tactics as well as
increasing their frequencies.
Worry can be healthy, too. Especially when it moves you
away from a major emphasis on communications tactics
and on to a plan for doing something positive about the
behaviors of those important external audiences of yours
that most affect your operation. And particularly so when
you persuade those key outside folks to your way of
thinking by helping to move them to take actions that
allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
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.