Dont Get Eaten Alive!
If you don't have a grip on public relations, how your most important outside audiences behave really CAN eat you alive.
But that needn't happen, and for a simple reason: people like those who make up your key target audiences, act on their perception of the facts (like everybody else) which leads to predictable behavior, good or bad, about which something can be done.
The way to address target audience perceptions is to regularly monitor how members perceive your organization, especially any existing misconceptions or brewing problem areas. This is the monitoring phase.
Now, you isolate what is causing the perceptions you've uncovered, and the probable "fix" you will apply. Then you decide upon a realistic amount of behavior change you can achieve in an equally realistic time frame. You've just established your public relations goal.
Here, your public relations advisor moves into action by selecting one of three strategies available, to reach that goal: create a perception if none exists, change an existing perception, or reinforce it.
Then you prepare the persuasive messages you need to change perceptions among your key target audience. They should also address indirectly those problems or misconceptions that cropped up during your information gathering. The messages must also clearly identify what is really at issue, and be perceived as credible.
Now that you've done some information gathering while interacting with that key target public, you've set your public relations goal, strategy and prepared persuasive messages. How will you get those messages to the eyes and ears that need to hear and read them?
That's what communications tactics are for - the "beasts of burden" that deliver your carefully prepared, persuasive messages to your #1 external audience.
And there are scores of them including face-to-face meetings with adversaries, newspaper and radio interviews, op-ed placements, speeches, press releases, community meetings and many, many more.
From this point forward you're really in monitoring mode. You must interact again with members of that key, target audience, and keep an eye on print and broadcast media for references to your messages or viewpoints.
Because such indicators will reflect how local feelings about your organization are changing, you'll then have a chance, if needed, to adjust both the communications tactics and message content.
As time passes, you'll begin to notice increased awareness of your business and its role in the marketplace; a growing receptiveness to your messages by customers and others; increased public perception of the role your organization plays in its industry and in the community, as well as increasing numbers of prospects. At the same time, you'll look for indications that any misconceptions, or other problems you discovered, have been resolved.
Of course, how much progress you achieve will depend heavily upon your continued personal involvement in the activity, and the amount of effort you invest.
The good news is that when behaviors among those groups of people important to your organization are actually modified, the public relations effort is a success, and nobody gets eaten alive.
In public relations, there are no more happier, happy endings.
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 © 2005
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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