Easy To Be Foolish About Pr
In fact, here are three really foolish goofs made by too
many business, non-profit and association managers.
If that?s you, you foolishly do nothing positive about the
behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours
that most affect your operation.
You foolishly fail to create external stakeholder behavior
change leading directly to achieving your managerial
Then you foolishly compound those goofs by never persuading
those key outside folks to your way of thinking, or moving
them to take actions that allow your department, division
or subsidiary to succeed.
What you really need to know is this.
The right PR really CAN alter individual perception and
lead to changed behaviors that help you succeed. And your
public relations effort must involve more than special
events, brochures and news releases if you really want to
get your money?s worth,
The foundation underlying public relations reads like this:
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.
Just look at the results it can deliver: new proposals for
strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to
work with you; customers making repeat purchases;
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
And results need not stop there. For example, you should
also see results like rebounds in showroom visits; membership
applications on the rise; new community service and sponsorship
opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded
feedback channels, as well as new thoughtleader and special
Of course your PR crew ? agency or staff ? must be committed
to you, as the senior project manager, to the PR blueprint and
its implementation, starting with target audience perception
And furthermore, you must impress upon them the crucial
importance of why your most important outside audiences
really must perceive your operations, products or services in
a clearly positive light. So assure yourself that your PR staff
has bought into the whole effort. Be especially careful that
they accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to
behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.
Meet with your PR team and discuss the PR blueprint
in detail, especially the plan for monitoring and gathering
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 interchange? Have you
experienced problems with our people or procedures?
Luckily, survey pros can always handle the perception
monitoring phases of your program, IF the budget is
available. But remember that 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
Now a word about your public relations goal. You need
one that speaks to the aberrations that showed up during
your key audience perception monitoring. And it could
call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or
correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about
that damaging rumor.
The hard truth is that, when you set a goal, you need a
strategy that shows you how to get there. You have 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. A bad strategy
pick will taste like ketchup on your stringbeans, 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 awfully hard work really is awfully hard work,
persuading an audience to your way of thinking means your
PR team must come up with just the right, corrective language.
Words that are compelling, persuasive and believable AND
clear and factual. You?ve got to do this if you are to correct a
perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view,
leading to the desired behaviors.
Review your message with your troops for impact and
persuasiveness. Then, pick out the communications tactics
most likely to carry your words to the attention of your target
audience. 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. But be sure that the tactics you pick are
known to reach folks just like your audience members.
You?ve heard the old bromide about the credibility of a
message depending on its delivery method. So, on the chance
that HOW you deliver your message may affect its believability,
you could introduce it to smaller gatherings instead of using
higher-profile tactics like news releases or talk show
When you notice mumblings about a progress report, take it as
an alert to 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, you?ll now be watching
very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is
being altered in your direction.
If things still are not moving fast enough, you can always
accelerate the effort with more communications tactics and
No more foolish goofs!
Instead, depend on the reality that the right PR really CAN
alter individual perception and lead `to changed behaviors that
help you succeed.
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.