Why Not Juice-up Your Pr?
Say, from tactics like special events, brochures and press
releases to a public relations effort more in keeping with
the challenges you face as a business, non-profit or
I speak of public relations that alters individual perception
and leads to changed behaviors among those key outside
audiences of yours.
Public relations that does something positive about the
behaviors of those key external ?publics? that MOST
affect your operation. Then helps persuade those important
outside audiences to your way of thinking, helping move
them to take actions that allow your department, division
or subsidiary to succeed.
Fact is, this approach CAN juice up your public relations
by creating the kind of stakeholder behavior change that
leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
Consider this short but pithy blueprint: 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.
Where can this go? Try results like community leaders
beginning to seek you out; membership applications on
the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases;
fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;
prospects starting to do business with you; welcome
bounces in show room visits; higher employee retention
rates, capital givers or specifying sources beginning to
look your way, and even politicians and legislators
starting to view you as a key member of the business,
non-profit or association communities.
How sure are you that your PR team really buys into the
blueprint outlined above, and shows commitment to its
implementation, starting with key audience perception
monitoring? Luckily, your PR people are already in the
perception and behavior business, so they should be of
real use for this initial opinion monitoring project. Be
certain that they really accept why it?s SO important to
know how your most important outside audiences
perceive your operations, products or services. Make
sure they believe that perceptions almost always result
in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.
Take them into your confidence and discuss your game
plan for monitoring and gathering perceptions by
questioning members of your most important outside
audiences. Questions along these lines: 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
Be ready to lay out some real cash if you retain a
professional survey firm to do the opinion monitoring
work, you may wish to use those PR folks of yours in
that capacity since, as noted, they?re already in the
perception and persuasion business. 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, what you need is a PR goal that does something about
the most serious distortions you discover during your key
audience perception monitoring. Will it be to straighten out
that dangerous misconception? Correct that gross inaccuracy?
Or, stop that potentially painful rumor cold?
However, in the absence of the right strategy to tell you how
to proceed, you won?t get there at all. So keep in mind that
there are just three strategic options available when it comes
to doing something about perception and opinion. Change
existing perception, create perception where there may be
none, or reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick will taste like
butterscotch sauce on your fishcakes, so be sure your new
strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You
wouldn?t want to select ?change? when the facts dictate a
strategy of reinforcement.
A well-written message is badly needed here to send to
members of your target audience. It?s always a challenge
to create an actionable message that will help persuade any
audience to your way of thinking. You?ll need your strongest
writers because s/he must build some very special, corrective
language. Words that are 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.
Once your PR team has ok?d the draft copy of your message,
you come face-to-face with your ?beasts of burden? ? the
communications tactics most likely to carry your message to
the attention of your target audience. There are scores that
are available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and
brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,
newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But you
must be certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach
folks like your audience members.
Because the credibility of any message is always on the table,
you may wish to avoid too loud a voice with this kind of
message and unveil it before smaller meetings and presentations
rather than using higher-profile news releases,
Here?s where you?ll probably start getting requests for
progress reports, which tells you and your PR team to begin
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 on red alert for signs that the bad news perception is
being altered in your direction.
One piece of luck: such matters usually can be accelerated
simply by adding more communications tactics as well as
increasing their frequencies.
OK, as a manager, your goal is to show a profit for your
business unit, or meet certain expectations of your
association membership, or achieve your non-profit?s
operating objective. In each case, you?ll need public
relations activity that creates behavior change among
your key outside audiences. Behavior change that leads
directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
And a darn good way to juice-up your public relations.
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.