Don't Get Caught With Your PR Down
Why risk the embarassment when with a little basic PR
training, you as a business, non-profit or association
manager can always be ready for battle?
Never again will you fail to do something positive about
the behaviors of those important outside audiences of
yours that MOST affect your operation.
Never again will you fail to create external stakeholder
behavior change leading directly to achieving your
And never again will you fail to persuade those key outside
folks to your way of thinking, or move them to take actions
that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
In fact, 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.
However ? and this is a big however ? it requires more than
special events, brochures and news releases if you really
want to get your PR money?s worth.
For example, 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.
As time passes, you should see customers making repeat
purchases; prospects reappearing; stronger relationships
with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare
communities; improved relations with government agencies
and legislative bodies, and even capital givers or specifying
sources looking your way.
Obviously, you want your most important outside audiences
to really perceive your operations, products or services in a
positive light. So be certain 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.
Get together and go over the PR blueprint carefully with
your staff, especially regarding how you will gather and
monitor perceptions by questioning members of your most
important outside audiences. Questions like these: 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?
You can depend 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
Let?s chat for a moment about 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.
But as you surely know, 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 peanut butter on your sea scallops,
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.
Here the right, corrective language must be created, because
persuading an audience to your way of thinking is awfully
hard work Especially when you?re looking for 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
In order to carry your words to the attention of your target
audience, you need to select the communications tactics most
likely to reach them. Happily there are dozens of available
tactics. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures
to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters,
personal meetings and many others. Just be sure that the
tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your
Occasionally, the credibility of your message can 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.
When you sense the need to provide a progress report, it?s
probably time for you and your PR folks to 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, stay alert for signs that
your communications tactics have worked and that the
negative perception is being altered in your direction.
Should those around you wax impatient, things can always be
accelerated with a broader selection of communications
tactics AND increased frequencies.
You won?t get caught with your PR down when you apply
your budget to public relations activity that creates behavior
change among your key outside audiences that leads directly
to achieving your managerial objectives.
That?s when it will become clear to you that the right PR
really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed
behaviors that help you win.
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.