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How PR Helps Managers Win

Anything that lets managers achieve their managerial objectives is a winner.

It's a bullseye when the right public relations alters individual perception leading to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.

How that comes about is the story of the day!

As a business, non-profit or association manager, you've got to do something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of yours that most affect your operation. Especially so when you persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.

As it turns out, the trail has been blazed before you came along. Consider this: 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.

What that does is allow you to move beyond a preoccupation with special events, brochures and press releases, and attend to the perceptions and behaviors of the very people who could hold your professional success as a manager in their hands.

That kind of success can come in many shapes and sizes. Consider these: welcome bounces in show room visits; rising membership applications; community leaders beginning to seek you out; prospects starting to do business with you; customers making repeat purchases; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; and new approaches by capital givers and specifying sources not to mention politicians and legislators viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

Here, division of labor rears its ugly head. Just who will do this sort of work? An outside PR agency team? Folks assigned to your operation? Your own public relations people? But regardless where they come from, they need to be committed to you and your PR plan beginning with key audience perception monitoring.

As with any manager, you need to talk to your public relations people in order to be certain that those assigned to you are clear on why it's vital to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. They must accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Review with them how you plan to proceed, especially how you will monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. For instance, how much do you know about our chief executive? 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?

Public relations people follow the money too, so, if the budget is available, don't hesitate to use professional survey firms in the perception monitoring phases of your program. But keep in mind that 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.

Establishing the right kind of PR goal will let you prevail over the worst distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. In fact, the new goal will probably call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor dead in its tracks.

Selecting the right strategy is truly key. I talk here about a strategy that tells you how to move forward. Please remember that there are just three strategic options available to you when it comes to handling a perception and opinion challenge. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Since the wrong strategy pick will taste like peppermint sauce on your spare ribs, be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

Tough job or not, someone on your PR staff must write a strong message and aim it at members of your target audience. Because crafting action-forcing language to persuade an audience to your way of thinking really is hard work, you need your first-string varsity writer because s/he must create some very special, corrective language. Words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to correct something and shift perception/ opinion towards your point of view leading to the behaviors you are targeting.

One of the less complex jobs is selecting the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. You can do this after you run the draft by your PR people for impact and persuasiveness. There are dozens of tactics available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

By the way, since a message's believability can depend on the credibility of the means used to deliver it, you may decide to unveil it before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases.

When the subject of progress reports arises, please take it as a signal that you and your PR team should begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session can be used again. But this time, you will be watching carefully for signs that the problem perception is being altered in your direction.

Things can always slow down. If program momentum does slow, you can always speed up matters by adding more communications tactics, and increase their frequencies.

But the fact remains that the quickest way PR can help managers is for the effort to persuade their most important outside stakeholders to the manager's way of thinking, then to move those folks to behave in a way that leads to the success of the manager's operation.

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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