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A Powerful PR Strategy

It really is powerful when a business, non-profit or association manager uses public relations to alter the individual perception of members of its key outside audiences, thus beginning the process of changing their behaviors.

And truly powerful when s/he actually persuades many of those key outside folks to the manager's way of thinking, helping to move them to take actions that allow the manager's department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

What's happening in our example, is that managers are using public relations to do something positive about the behaviors of the very outside audiences of theirs that MOST affect their operation.

ESPECIALLY "warm and fuzzy" when such power creates the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving the manager's most important objectives.

Wouldn't it be nice, you say, if managers had available the precise public relations blueprint they need designed to get all their team members and organizational colleagues working towards the same external stakeholder behaviors?

Yes it would, so here is a PR blueprint plan along those lines: People act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads o 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 accomplished.

The word powerful seems appropriate when results like these start to crop up: new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; a rebound in showroom visits; membership applications on the rise; fresh community service and sponsorship opportunities; new thoughtleader and special event contacts; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat purchases; and even stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities.

The division of labor will be a prime concern to you. Just who is going to do the work anyway? Will it be regular public relations staff? Or people sent to you by a higher authority? Or possibly a PR agency crew? Regardless of where they come from, they must be committed to you as the senior project manager, to the PR blueprint and its implementation, starting with key audience perception monitoring.

Something to keep your eye on. Be sure that your team members really believe deeply why it's SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Be certain they buy the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.

Invest some time in reviewing your PR blueprint with your PR team, especially your plan for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions like these: 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?

If your budget will allow, you can use professional survey counsel for the perception monitoring phases of your program. But remember 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.

Now you must establish your public relations goal. This is your chance to do something about the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Your public relations goal might call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor in its tracks.

To achieve success, you need a solid strategy, one that clearly shows you how to proceed. To keep things simple, note that there are only 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. Of course, the wrong strategy pick will taste like spoiled rhubarb pie so be certain the new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. Naturally, you don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

This is your chance to share a powerful corrective message with members of your target audience. But persuading an audience to your way of thinking is no easy task. Which is why your PR folks must come up with words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual. Only in this way will you be able to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the behaviors you are targeting.

Run a message draft by your communications specialists to be sure its impact and persuasiveness measure up. Then select the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. 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. But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

You might consider unveiling the message in presentations before smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases. Reason is, the credibility of a message can depend on the credibility of its delivery method.

The subject of progress reports will come up soon enough. And this should alert you and your PR team to get back out in the field and start work on 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. Difference this time is that you will be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

If things slow down, try speeding them up with more communications tactics and increased frequencies.

By now you should know this powerful reality at the core of public relations: the right PR can alter individual perception leading to changed behaviors which, in turn, lead directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at Word count is 1160 including guidelines and resource box. 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. Visit:


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