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PR: Short Form for Managers

Experience tells me that too many business, non-profit and association managers pursue their goals and objectives largely without the insights, behavioral strategies and sheer power public relations can bring to the table.

Here's what I believe they're missing, i.e., the essentials that flow from the fundamental premise of public relations, namely: people act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. So, when we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public relations mission is accomplished.

If you are that manager, please recognize that any organization including your own -MUST take into account the perceptions held by those external audiences whose behaviors affect your organization, or the behaviors flowing from those perceptions can hurt.

My first question for you is, is it just a matter of "hits?" You know, articles or interviews sold to editors? Is that all there is to public relations?

Or, could there be more to it? Of course there's more to it!

Why do you want the "hits" in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish?

I believe you want the same thing every other buyer of public relations services wants: to change somebody's behavior in a way that really helps your organization reach its objectives.

So, wouldn't it make more sense to start at the beginning and save tactics like "publicity hits" for that moment when you need those "beasts of burden" to do their thing? Namely, to efficiently carry persuasive messages to a key target audience of yours?

Sure it would.

So let's start by taking a close look at those external target publics. They're so important because how they think and behave can actually determine the success or failure of your operation

Don't believe it? Look at those audiences whose behaviors directly affect your organization's operations, even those possibly unaware that your organization even exists. Are they likely to want its services or products?


Look at an external audience where members harbor a serious misconception about the organization. Does this reduce their desire to work with you?


Look at an external audience some of whose members believe a grossly negative and inaccurate set of facts about the organization. Will those people be first in line to work with you?


Obviously, what members of a key target audience believes about your organization matters, and matters a lot!

Why not begin by heading-off such a situation by listing those outside groups - those target audiences - in order of how much their behaviors affect your organization?

Start by interacting with those people. Of course, if the budget will stand it, you could use a survey firm to gather their feelings, thoughts and perceptions.

Minus such a budget, however, do it yourself. Fortunately, your public relations colleagues are already in the opinion monitoring business and can carefully gauge how these people feel about your organization. When you interact this way, you get to ask a lot of questions and gather a lot of information you really need.

What are you hearing? Misconceptions that need straightening out? Rumors that should not be allowed to exist? Inaccurate beliefs about your products and services that could drive people away from you? Do you notice still other perceptions about you and your organization that need to be altered?

The answers to such questions allow you to create your public relations goal which will alter, and thus correct, each misconception, or inaccuracy, or rumor.

You've made some real progress by monitoring perceptions within your key target audience, and you've established your corrective public relations goal.

Now for the strategy that tells you how to reach that goal. HOW to move forward with your new PR effort is always challenging, especially when it comes to selecting the right strategy to tell you how to get where you want to go. 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 too much pepper in your chicken soup, assure yourself that 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.

It's time to do some more work in the form of "what you are going to say to your key external audience." If all goes well, it will alter people's inaccurate perceptions about you and the organization.

However, it must be persuasively written so that it is perceived as creditable and believable. And it must speak the truth clearly and with authority.

Your "beasts of burden" show up at this point. In two words, communications tactics that will carry your newly-minted message from your computer direct to the attention of those key target audience members whose behavior you hope to alter in your direction.

It is your good fortune that there are scores of such tactics awaiting your call to arms. You might use a speech to communicate your message, or letters-to-the-editor, press releases, emails, brochures or face-to-face meetings, and many other tactics.

To find out if you're making any progress towards your behavioral goal, you will need to REmonitor target audience members as well as local print and broadcast media.

But now, you'll be looking for perception and attitude changes hopefully produced by the combination of your persuasive messages and carefully targeted communications tactics. And you'll be asking lots of questions all over again.

Should you be fortunate enough to note considerable movement in opinion in your direction, you may consider your public relations goal as having been achieved.

On the other hand, if little movement is noted, adjustments to the frequency, quantity and tactics mix should be made. Your message also should be reviewed for its content and direction, and tested again for effect with a panel of target group members.

Either way, your public relations program is on track and preparing to deliver the key target audience behaviors your operation needs to succeed.

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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