What Kind Of PR Makes Sense?
For business, non-profit and association managers, is it
publicity that delivers newspaper and talk show mentions
backed up by colorful brochures and videos, combined
with special events that attract a lot of people?
Or could your business, non-profit or association PR dollar
be better spent on public relations activity that creates
behavior change among your key outside audiences that
leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives? And
does so by persuading your most important outside
audiences to your way of thinking, then moves them to take
actions that help your department, division or subsidiary
What we?re talking about is the kind of PR that lets you
do something positive about the behaviors of those external
stakeholders of yours that MOST affect your organization.
Which means the right PR really CAN alter individual
perception and lead to changed behaviors that help you
Here?s a recipe for you: 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
And it can generate results like increased membership
applications; prospects starting to work with you; customers
making repeat purchases; capital givers or specifying sources
looking your way; stronger relationships with the educational,
labor, financial and healthcare communities; and even
improved relations with government agencies and legislative
Once the program gets rolling, you also should see results
such as new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;
rebounds in showroom visits; community service and
sponsorship opportunities; enhanced activist group relations,
and expanded feedback channels, not to mention new
thoughtleader and special event contacts.
To garner such results 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
As you know, its extremely important that your key outside
audiences see your operations, products or services in the most
positive light. So make certain that your PR staff has bought
into the whole effort. For example, do they accept the reality
that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help
or hurt your unit?
Review the PR blueprint with your PR team, 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?
IF the budget is available, survey firms obviously can handle the
perception monitoring phases of your program. 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 hurtful behaviors.
But what about your public relations goal? You need a goal
statement 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.
PR 101 says when you set a goal, you need a strategy that
shows you how to get there. Here, 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 lime zest on your veal chops, 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.
Your PR team has their work cut out for them because now
they must come up with just the right, corrective language
that will persuade an audience to your way of thinking. Words
that are compelling, persuasive and believable AND clear and
factual. You have little choice if you are to correct a perception
by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to
the desired behaviors.
Message impact is also key in such a message, so sit down
again with your communications specialists and review your
message for that quality as well.. Then, select 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.
The credibility of a message can depend on its delivery method.
So, think about introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than
using higher-profile tactics such as news releases or talk show
Calls for progress reports will send you and your PR folks back
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 colleagues (or bosses) seem impatient for results, you can always accelerate things with more communications tactics and increased frequencies.
Folks act on their perceptions of the facts they hear about you
and your operation. Which means you have next to no choice
but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by
doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external
audiences of yours to actions you desire.
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.