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Pressure From the Top?

Yes, and that pressure often comes from a CEO who knows what a public relations investment SHOULD produce.

And do public relations folks fear such pressure? Not those who've got the answers!

For example, "we're spending your public relations investment in the most effective way - insuring that our most important external audiences perceive us accurately, understand what we do, and end up taking those actions we desire.

"We're operating from a solid foundation," Mr/Ms Chairman, or Executive Director. Namely, people will act on their own perception of the facts before them. And those perceptions will lead 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 those folks whose behaviors affect your business, the public relations effort is a success.

So, what actions flow from that underlying premise?

First, we run a kind of G-2 operation by interacting with our most important external audiences - customers, members, prospects, technical specifiers and employees, among others. Here, we ask questions and gather information.

We need to know how they perceive our operation and our management. We listen carefully to what they say about us, especially our products or services. At the same time, we track print and broadcast media and other feedback sources.

We believe it's important to watch for developing misconceptions and inaccuracies. Particularly potential problem areas that may need corrective action. Problems like suggestions of technical difficulties with our products, personnel questions, perceptions of obsolescence, or trouble-making competitive rumors.

Once we've identified perceptions that need correcting, the question is, what is our strategy for getting it done? Here, we must ask ourselves whether we need to create a certain perception where none exists, change an existing perception, or merely reinforce it.

This is really important because the answer obviously will affect the persuasive messages we're about to prepare to correct the misperceptions.

So we carefully put together what we hope will be really compelling messages. Then, we aim them at those key target audiences we discovered are harboring misconceptions that, left unattended, will certainly result in behaviors we don't like. Our objective will be to move that opinion in our direction.

Now, not surprisingly, we must select communications tactics, known in some quarters as "beasts of burden," that are carefully structured to carry those persuasive messages directly to the attention of members of that key target audience.

Communications tactics range from one-on-one meetings, newspaper and radio interviews and press releases to open houses, speeches, brochures, newsletters and promotional events. There are literally scores of such tactics available to you.

Finally, we must gauge the impact of our communications activity by continuing to meet with members of that key target audience, and by monitoring our other feedback sources. We will watch and listen for signs of developing awareness of you, your operation and how it functions. But especially for indications that any misconceptions, or other problems we discovered, have been resolved.

"Mr/Ms Chairman, at the end of the day, I believe you want us to use our expertise in a way that helps you achieve your business objectives."

Thus, regardless of what strategic plan we create to solve a problem, regardless of what tactical program we put in place, when all is said and done, we must modify somebody's behavior if we are to earn our keep.

And that is our certain path to public relations success.

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 2003

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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