|Managers: Let's Call a Spade a Spade!
Brochures, broadcast plugs and press releases ? don?t call them public relations. Call them what they really are, valuable tactical devices which public relations calls upon from time to time to move a message from here to there.
Nothing more, nothing less, and certainly not public relations? Mother strategy which (1), marshalls the resources and action planning needed to alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors among a business, non-profit,or association?s most important outside audiences. And (2), goes on to help a manager persuade those key folks to his or her way of thinking, then (3) moves them to take actions that allow their department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
The management reality behind such an achievement is the underlying premise of public relations: 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 usually accomplished.
The good news for those managers is that the right public relations planning really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.
You may be such a manager. If you are, try to remember that your PR effort must demand more than special events, news releases and talk show tactics if you are to receive the quality public relations results you deserve.
You?ll be glad you took such a step when capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; customers begin to make repeat purchases; membership applications start to rise; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures start showing up; politicians and legislators begin looking at you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities; new (and very ) welcome bounces in show room visits occur; prospects actually start to do business with you; and community leaders begin to seek you out. Your public relations professionals can be of real use for your new opinion monitoring project because they are already in the perception and behavior business. But be certain that the PR staff really accepts why it?s SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Above all, be sure they believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.
Go over your plans with them for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Ask questions like these: 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 or procedures?
The cost of using professional survey firms to do the opinion gathering work will be considerably more than using those PR folks of yours, who are already in the perception business, in that monitoring capacity. 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.
It?s time to establish a goal calling for action on the most serious problem areas you uncovered 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
It goes without saying that setting your PR goal requires an equally specific strategy that tells you how to get there. Only three strategic options are available to you 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 pancake syrup on your Finan Haddie, so be sure your new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You certainly don?t want to select ?change? when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.
Here, good writing comes to the fore. You must prepare a persuasive message that will help move your key audience to your way of thinking. It must be a carefully-written message targeted directly at your key external audience. Select your very best writer because s/he must come up with really corrective language that is 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.
At this point, you must select the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. There are many available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.
Since the credibility of any message is fragile and always up for grabs, how you communicate is a concern. Which is why you may wish to unveil your corrective message before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases.
Inevitably, the need for a progress report will cause you 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 benchmark session. But now, you will be on strict alert for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.
A source of comfort for you, should program momentum slow, will be the fact that you can always speed things up by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.
Calling tactical devices just that, avoids confusing them with the broader, more comprehensive mission known as public relations. A mission that allows managers of all stripes to alter individual perception in a way that leads to changed behaviors among key outside audiences, thus insuring the success of that manager?s operation.
Robert A. Kelly © 2005.
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About The Author
Robert A. Kelly
Bob Kelly counsels and writes for business, non-profit and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has published over 200 articles on the subject which are listed at EzineArticles.com, click Expert Author, click Robert A. Kelly. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, 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.