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PR: Heres All You Need to Know

Above all, you need to know that the right PR can alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors.

Especially when you create external stakeholder behavior change, the kind that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

And all because the core of your public relations lies in doing something positive about the behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation.

The bottom line is, the right PR let's you persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, and help move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

And now, the bonus blueprint that gets everyone working towards the same external stakeholder behaviors, insuring that your PR effort stays focused: 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 accomplished.

Such a blueprint can produce results like new community service and sponsorship opportunities; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; prospects

starting to work with you; customers making repeat purchases; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; promotional contest overtures; a rebound in showroom visits; new thoughtleader and special event contacts; capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; membership applications on the rise; new feedback channels; stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities; and even enhanced activist group relations.

It should be a prime concern to you as to who carries out this PR plan for you. Just who is going to do the work anyway? Will it be your full-time public relations staff? Folks assigned to your unit by a higher authority? A PR agency team? 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.

A cautionary suggestion. Simply because a specialist describes him/herself as a public relations person doesn't mean they've bought the program whole hog. You must be assured that those assigned to you believe deeply why it's SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Insure that they buy the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit.

Take the time to review the 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?

For the perception monitoring phases of your program, use professional survey counsel if your budget will allow. 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.

Now it's time to do something about the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. In other words, establish your public relations goal. And that could be to straighten out that dangerous misconception, or correct that gross inaccuracy, or stop that potentially fatal rumor dead in its tracks.

Naturally, you will need a good 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 day-old fried eggs, so be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. Certainly, You don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

Now you need to hit members of your target audience with a powerful message. But persuading an audience to your way of thinking is hard work. Which is why your PR folks must create some very special, corrective language. 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.

Pass your message by your communications specialists to assure its impact and persuasiveness. Then, sharpen it before selecting 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.

Since the credibility of a message is often dependent on how it's delivered, you should consider unveiling it before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile means such as news releases. You'll soon need to provide progress reports, which will 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 the program lags, consider accelerating matters with more communications tactics and increased frequencies.

Yes, all you REALLY need to know is that the right PR can alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors. Especially when you create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads 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 1130 including guidelines and resource box.

Robert A. Kelly 2004.

About The Author

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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