Can Your PR Do This?
Can your PR do something positive about the behaviors of those outside audiences that most affect your business, non-profit or association?
Can your PR deliver external stakeholder behavior change -- the kind that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives?
Can your PR persuade those important outside folks to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed?
Or does the money you spend on public relations pretty much buy personnel mentions in the newspaper and product plugs on radio talk shows?
If you want the real thing - the public relations performance described above - start with this reality: 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.
First, look at the results that could come your way. Capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects interested in doing business with you; membership applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases; politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities; welcome bounces in show room visits; higher employee retention rates, and even community leaders beginning to seek you out.
If you're a business, non-profit or association manager, and you're serious about wringing every last benefit out of your public relations budget, here, for starters, are two suggestions: list those outside audiences of yours who behave in ways that help or hinder you in achieving your objectives. Then prioritize them by impact severity. And let's address the target audience you decide is number one.
In all likelihood, you haven't gathered data that tells you what most members of that key outside audience think about your organization. However, you would have these data if you had been regularly sampling those perceptions.
But now, in the absence of a large professional survey budget, you and your colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions yourselves. Meet with members of that outside audience and interact by asking questions like "Have you ever met anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience? How much do you know about our services or products?" Watch carefully for negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies. And stay alert for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. You'll need to correct any that you discover because experience shows they usually lead to negative behaviors.
After correcting such aberrations before they morph into hurtful behaviors, you now select the specific perception to be altered, and that becomes your public relations goal.
As luck would have it, a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like pasta without the meat sauce. That's why you must select one of three strategies especially designed to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change existing perception, or reinforce it. And take care that your new goal and the new strategy match each other. After all, you wouldn't want to select "change existing perception" when current perception is just right suggesting a "reinforce" strategy.
Now here's where talent comes in. Your PR team must put those writing skills to work and prepare a compelling message carefully designed to alter your key target audience's perception, as called for by your public relations goal.
You might think about combining your corrective message with another newsworthy announcement of a new product, service or employee - or including it in another presentation -- thus lending credibility by downplaying the correction.
Still, the corrective message must possess clarity. It must be clear about what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Your facts must be truthful and your position must be persuasive, logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that target audience, and really move perception your way.
Actually picking the "beasts of burden" - the tools you will count on to carry your persuasive new thoughts to the attention of that external audience - will be the least challenging part of your campaign.
You'll find a huge collection of communications tactics available such as letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases and speeches. Or, possibly radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, newsletters, group briefings and many others. But again, be cautious about the tactics you select. Can they demonstrate a record of reaching the same people as those you call your target stakeholders?
Without any question, the subject of progress will arise. And you'll want to be ready for such queries by again monitoring perceptions among your target audience members. But here's the difference the second time around. Using questions similar to those used during your earlier monitoring session, you will now watch carefully for indications that audience perceptions are beginning to move in your direction. That spells progress.
I should note that we are fortunate in the PR business that we can always put the pedal to the metal by employing additional communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.
Finally, strive to sharpen your focus on the very groups of outside people - your key external stakeholders -- who play a major role in just how successful a manager you will be.
Then use a workable blueprint such as that outlined at the beginning of this article. A plan that helps you persuade those important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that lead to the success of your department, division or subsidiary.
Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net.
Robert A. Kelly © 2004.
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 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.
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