What You Don't Know About PR Can Hurt You
What You Don?t Know About PR Can Hurt You
And hurt bad if you are a business, non-profit or association
manager. Especially when you rely too heavily on tactics
like special events, brochures and press releases to get your
Instead, pursue public relations that does nothing less than
alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors
among those key outside audiences of yours.
In other words, the best approach does something positive
about the behaviors of those key external audiences
that MOST affect your operation.
That approach persuades your important external folks to
your way of thinking, and moves them to take actions that
allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Thus it creates the kind of stakeholder behavior change that
leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
Best part is, once you digest the underlying premise of public
relations, you?ll understand how the right PR really CAN
alter individual perception and lead to those changed
behaviors you need. Here?s how it goes: 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.
Keep in mind that it requires more than good old special
events, brochures and news releases if you really want to
end up with your PR money?s worth.
Fact is, business, non-profit and association managers
who employ this kind of public relations can benefit from
results such as new proposals for strategic alliances and
joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; membership
applications on the rise; community service and sponsorship
opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded
feedback channels, not to mention new thoughtleader and
special event contacts.
Over time, you?ll notice customers making repeat
purchases; prospects reappearing; stronger developing
relationships with the educational, labor, financial and
healthcare communities; improved relations with government
agencies and legislative bodies, and even capital givers or
specifying sources glancing your way.
It goes without saying that you want your most important
outside audiences to really perceive your operations,
products or services in a positive light. So take pains to be
sure that your PR staff has bought into the whole effort.
Convince yourself that they accept the reality that
perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help
or hurt your unit.
Spend some time together and review the PR blueprint very
carefully with your staff, especially regarding how you will
gather and monitor perceptions by questioning members
of your most important outside audiences. Questions such as:
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?
Certainly you can count on professional survey people to
handle the perception monitoring phases of your program IF
the budget is available. But luckily, 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
We should spend a moment on your public relations goal.
You need one that addresses the problems that cropped up
during your key audience perception monitoring. Chances are,
it will call for straightening out that dangerous misconception,
or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about
that damaging rumor.
Another truism is that goals need strategies to show you
how to get there. And you have just three strategic choices
when it comes to handling 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 maple syrup on your ziti, 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.
Because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is
awfully hard work, you now must create the right corrective
language including words that are compelling, persuasive,
believable AND clear and factual. This is a must if you are
to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your
point of view, leading to the desired behaviors. So, meet
again with your communications specialists and review
your message for impact and persuasiveness.
Now you need to select the communications tactics most
likely to carry your words to the attention of your target
audience. Happily there are dozens 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
Sad, but the credibility of your message could depend on
its delivery method. So, consider introducing it to smaller
gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications
such as news releases or talk show appearances.
Progress reports will suggest themselves in due course. And
that probably will mean you and your PR folks should return
to the field for a second perception monitoring session with
members of your external audience. Using many of the same
questions used in the first benchmark session, watch carefully
for signs that your communications tactics have worked and
that the negative perception is being altered in your direction.
If you sense your colleagues or your client becoming impatient,
you can always accelerate matters with a broader selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.
You won?t get hurt when you apply your budget to public
relations activity that creates behavior change among your key
outside audiences that leads directly to achieving your goals.
That will demonstrate conclusively that the right PR really
CAN alter individual perception. And better yet, lead to
changed behaviors that help you reach those managerial
objectives and come out on top.
About the Author: 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.