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Whats Important About PR?

Quite a bit, actually. Public relations helps business, non- profit and association managers achieve their managerial objectives with results like these. New proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; customers making repeat purchases; stronger relationships with educational, labor, financial and healthcare interests; enhanced activist group relations; new membership applications; capital givers and specifying sources looking their way, as well as improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; both new thoughtleader and special event contacts; and expanded feedback channels.

Here are some of the public relations strategies they use.

They accept the fact that the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead to the very changed behaviors they need. And they recognize that, because people DO act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about these managers and their operations, they have little choice but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external audiences of theirs to actions they desire.

What these business, non-profit and association managers are doing is taking steps to do something positive about the behaviors of those important outside audiences of theirs that MOST affect their operations.

So they create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving their managerial objectives. Interestingly, they'll be able to accomplish this when they persuade those key outside folks to their way of thinking, and then move them to take actions that allow their department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

Undergirding the whole effort is the fundamental 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 accomplished.

There is no doubt that you want your most important outside audiences to perceive your operations, products or services in a positive light. So, reassure yourself that your PR staff accepts the basic truth that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.

Talk to your PR people regarding how you will gather and monitor 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 how things went? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Clearly, the perception monitoring phases of your program can be assigned to professional survey people to handle, IF the budget is available. If not, you are fortunate that you can depend on your own PR people who 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.

Problems that appeared during your key audience perception monitoring will be the basis for your public relations goal. No doubt it will shoot to straighten out that dangerous misconception, or correct that gross inaccuracy, or do something about that wretched rumor.

You can't avoid the fact that every goal must have a strategy to show you how to get there. But you have just 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. As luck would have it, selecting the wrong strategy will taste like sauteed bologna ends, 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.

Here you'll be looking for words that are compelling, persuasive, believable AND clear and factual. Structuring your corrective message is crucial because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is awfully hard work. But a must if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the behaviors you desire. Take the time to go over your message with your PR folks for its impact and persuasiveness.

Time to select the precise communications tactics most likely to attract the attention of your target audience. Happily, you can pick from dozens of available tactics. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Just be very sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

It's a fact that your message credibility can depend on the way you deliver it. Try introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications such as news releases or talk show appearances.

Because a progress report will be unavoidable, you can expect you and your PR folks to move back to the field for a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Same questions used in the first benchmark session, will do the trick again. But you must stay alert for signs that your communications tactics have worked and that the negative perception is being altered the way you want it to be altered.

By the way, you can always speed things up with a broader selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.

Public relation's single most important contribution to a business, non-profit or association manager is building the resolve to do something positive about the behaviors of those important outside audiences that most affect their operations.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at

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 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.



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