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A Blueprint for Managing your PR

OK, as a manager, your goal is to show a profit for your business unit, or meet certain expectations of your association membership, or achieve your non-profit's operating objective. In each case, you'll need public relations activity that creates behavior change among your key outside audiences. Behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

Here's how you can make it happen. Accept the fact that the right PR really can alter individual perception and lead to those changed behaviors you need.

Then resolve to do something positive about the behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation.

In particular, create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives. You'll be able to pull this off when you persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, and then move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

Here's the blueprint showing you how to manage this kind 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.

But you'll find that you will need a lot more than news releases, brochures and special events to get a satisfactory return on your PR investment.

Here are some of the results business, non-profit and association managers can expect from this kind of public relations. New proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; membership applications on the rise; community service and sponsorship opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded feedback channels, and even new thoughtleader and special event contacts.

Before long, you should see customers making repeat purchases; prospects reappearing; stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies, and perhaps even capital givers or specifying sources looking your way.

A word of caution here because you certainly want your most important outside audiences to really perceive your operations, products or services in a positive light. Be sure that your PR staff is really on board for the whole effort. Reassure yourself that they accept the basic truth that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.

Sit down and review the PR blueprint carefully with your staff, especially 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, IF the budget is available, you can depend on professional survey people to handle the perception monitoring phases of your program. But fortunately, 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.

When you set your public relations goal, remember that you need one that addresses the problems that appeared during your key audience perception monitoring. Probably, your new goal will call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about that awful rumor.

As day follows night, goals need strategies 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. Unfortunately, selecting a bad strategy will taste like anchovy paste on your scones, 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.

How you structure your corrective message is crucial because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is awfully hard work. Especially when you're looking for words that are compelling, persuasive, believable AND clear and factual. Hard work, but a must if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors. Review your message with your communications specialists for its impact and persuasiveness.

Sounds obvious, but in order to carry your words to the attention of your target audience, you need to select the precise communications tactics most likely to reach them. Fortunately, 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. Be darn certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

When you think about it, the credibility of your message can depend on how you deliver it. So, try introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications such as news releases or talk show appearances.

Before long, you'll need to produce a progress report, which means it's probably time for you and your PR folks to get back out in the field for a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You can use the same questions used in the first benchmark session, but now you must stay alert for signs that your communications tactics have worked and that the negative perception is being altered in your direction.

If things aren't moving fast enough for you, matters can always be accelerated with a broader selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.

Because people act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation, you really need a public relations blueprint like this. Reason being you 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 yours to actions you desire.

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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