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What Some Pros Know About PR

They know they had better do something positive about those outside audiences that MOST affect their organizations. Especially business, non-profit or association managers, who also know they must persuade those key external "publics" to the manager's way of thinking, then move those people to actions that allow that manager's department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

It all works because public relations applies its underlying premise to deliver external stakeholder behavior change, the kind that leads directly to achieving those managerial objectives.

That's why the pros let the tacticians handle the special events, brochures and press releases. The pros have better things to do.

Like implementing the underlying premise of public relations that makes it all possible. 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 usually accomplished.

Pros usually know that a variety of operating results can flow from such an approach to public relations: customers starting to make repeat purchases; prospects starting to work with you; capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; welcome bounces in show room visits; membership applications on the rise; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; community leaders beginning to seek you out, and even politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Your PR staff will be key whether they are your employees, agency specialists or from a parent organization. You must get them on board this particular approach to PR as soon as possible. Ideally, they will already support why it's so important to know how your outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Specifically, be sure they accept the reality that negative perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can damage your organization.

During your strategy meetings with PR staff, explain how you plan to monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions such as: how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

You should be comforted by the fact that your PR people are already in the perception and behavior business and can be of real use for the initial opinion monitoring project. Professional survey firms are always available, of course, but that can be very expensive. However, whether it's your people or a survey firm who handles the questioning, the objective is the same. Identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negatives.

Establishing your corrective public relations goal - that is, correcting or clarifying those negatives - is next. Here you identify which negative is most serious, for example, spike that rumor, clarify the false assumption or correct the untruths.

Never forget that you can meet that PR goal only when you select the right strategy from the three choices available to you. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Picking the wrong strategy will taste like meat sauce on your oatmeal. So be sure your new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You wouldn't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

While it's always a challenge to put together action-forcing language that will help persuade any audience to your way of thinking, you must, nevertheless, create a persuasive, corrective message aimed at members of your target audience.

Which is why you must have your best writer on this job. You must have language that is not merely compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if it is to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you desire.

Now you get to supervise a much easier task - assembling the communications tactics you need to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Double check that the tactics you and your PR staff select have a record of reaching folks like your audience members. You can pick from dozens that are available, from speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others.

Remember that the believability of the message can depend to some extent on the credibility of its delivery method. Which means you may wish to deliver it in smaller meetings and presentations rather than through a higher profile media announcement.

Calls for progress reports are really calls for you and your PR team to undertake a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You'll want to use many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session. But now, you will be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

Should you decide to pick up the pace a bit, your PR program usually can be accelerated by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

The really key point about this public relations approach is that this particular blueprint will help you persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to behave in a way that leads to the success of your department, division or subsidiary.

Which means you can say goodbye to doing public relations the hard way.

Here's a public relations rule suitable for a place of honor on your computers or your refrigerators. The people you deal with do, in fact, behave like everyone else - they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. A strong suggesting that you should deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move your key external audiences 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 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 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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