Why PR Is An Engine For Economic Growth
Business, non-profit and association managers committing
their public relations resources to (1) doing something about
the behaviors of those important outside audiences that most
affect their operation, (2) creating the kind of external
stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving
their managerial objectives, and (3) doing so by persuading
those key outside folks to their way of thinking by helping
to move them to take actions that allow their department,
division or subsidiary to succeed ? greatly increase the
chances of success for their operation.
Thus, feeding the engine of their own economic growth
AND that of the nation at large.
But, in reality, it takes more than good intentions for any
manager to alter individual perception leading to changed
behaviors, something of profound importance to ALL
business, non-profit and association managers.
What they need is a simple PR blueprint that gets everyone
working towards the same external audience behaviors
insuring that the organization?s public relations effort stays
For example, a blueprint 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.
In that way, those same business, non-profit and association
managers can see results such as new proposals for strategic
alliances and joint ventures; customers making repeat
purchases; prospects starting to work with them; membership
applications on the rise; capital givers or specifying sources
looking their way, and even bounces in showroom visits.
But HOW those managers pull that off forms the real challenge.
Here?s how the best of them can do it. They find out who
among their key external audiences is behaving in ways
that help or hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then,
they list them according to how severely their behaviors
affect their organization.
But precisely HOW do most members of that key outside
audience perceive their organization? If the budget to pay
for what could be costly professional survey counsel isn?t
there, Ms. or Mr. manager and his or her PR colleagues will
have to monitor those perceptions themselves. Actually, they
should be quite familiar with perception and behavior matters.
Getting that activity under way means meeting with members
of that outside audience and asking questions like ?Are you
familiar with our services or products?? ?Have you ever had
contact with anyone from our organization? Was it a
satisfactory experience?? And if you are that manager, you
must be sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive
or hesitant replies. And watch carefully for false assumptions,
untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially
damaging rumors. When you find such, they will need to be
corrected, as they inevitably lead to negative behaviors.
The job now is to select the specific perception to be altered
which then becomes your public relations goal. You
obviously want to correct those untruths, inaccuracies,
misconceptions or false assumptions.
One of the painful aspects of the whole drill is that a PR
goal without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like
a three-bean salad without the beans. So, as you select one
of three strategies (especially constructed to create perception
or opinion where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,)
what you want to do is insure that the goal and its strategy
match each other. You wouldn?t want to select ?change
existing perception? when current perception is just right
suggesting that ?reinforce? strategy.
The moment has come when you must create a compelling
message carefully constructed to alter your key target
audience?s perception, as specified by your public relations
Keep in mind that you can always combine your corrective
message with another news announcement or presentation
which may give it more credibility by downplaying the
apparent need for such a correction.
The content of the message must be compelling and quite
clear about what perception needs clarification or correction,
and why. Of course you must be truthful and your position
logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention
of members of that target audience, and actually move
perception in your direction.
Some allude to the communications tactics necessary to
move your message to the attention of that key external
audience, as ?beasts of burden? because they must carry your
persuasive new thoughts to the eyes and ears of those
important outside people.
Actually, we have a wide choice because the list of tactics
is long indeed. It includes letters-to-the-editor, brochures,
press releases and speeches. Or, you might choose radio
and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours
or customer briefings. There are scores available and the
only selection requirement is that the communications
tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just
like the members of your key target audience.
Of course, things can always be accelerated by adding
more communications tactics, AND by increasing their
It won?t be long before those around you will be asking
about progress. But you will already be hard at work
remonitoring perceptions among your target audience
members to test the effectiveness of your communications
tactics. Using questions similar to those used during your
earlier monitoring session, you?ll now become beady-eyed
looking for signs that audience perceptions are beginning
to move in your general direction.
Yes, performed in this manner, public relations obviously
does feed the engine of YOUR economic growth and, thus,
that of the nation at large.
But do keep your eye on the core of this approach: persuade
your most important outside audiences with the greatest
impacts on your organization to your way of thinking. Then
move them to take actions that help your department,
division or subsidiary prevail.
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.