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PR: Lets Cut to the Chase

If your key - that's KEY - outside audiences don't exhibit the kind of behaviors that lead to results like these, you need to take a closer look at your public relations effort.

Results like fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rising membership applications, customers starting to make repeat purchases creating bounces in show room visits; prospects starting to do business with you; community leaders beginning to seek you out; 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.

Do you agree that you need behavior change among your most important outside audiences that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives? And that you then need to persuade those key external stakeholders with the greatest impacts on your organization to your way of thinking, and help move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed?

In other words, you may need public relations activity that can deliver results far beyond publicity tactics. And a public relations premise like this one can show the way: 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.

But how should you, as a manager, position your public relations to do this? First, you had best be sure every member of your PR team agrees that it's awfully important to know how your outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Stay at it until you're certain they REALLY accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can damage your operation.

Then it's time to start working the PR blueprint by monitoring and gathering perceptions through questioning members of your most important outside audience. Ask 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?

Here's some good fortune! Your PR folks are already in the perception and behavior business, so they can be of real use for this opinion monitoring project. Yes, professional survey firms can be brought in to handle the opinion monitoring chore, but that can cost you a lot of money. So whether it's your people or a survey firm who asks the questions, your objective is the same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions.

The question now is this: which of the above aberrations is serious enough that it should become your corrective public relations goal? Clarify the misconception? Spike that rumor? Correct the false assumption? Fix those inaccuracies? Or yet another offensive perception that could lead to negative results?

You can assure you'll achieve your public relations goal by selecting the right strategy from the three choices available to you. In brief, change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. But be sure your new strategy naturally compliments your new public relations goal.

Just what will your message emphasize when you address your key stakeholder audience to help persuade them to your way of thinking?

That's why you must select your best writer to prepare the message because s/he must put together some very special, corrective language. Persuasive and believable words that are not only compelling, but clear and factual so they can shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you have in mind.

Lucky for all of us, the next step is easy. Pick communications tactics to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Making certain that the tactics you 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.

It's useful to remember that HOW one communicates often affects the credibility of the message, so you may wish to deliver it in small getogethers like meetings and presentations rather than through a higher-profile media announcement.

Folks will soon be looking for signs of progress. And that will lead to a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Employing many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session, you will now be watching carefully for signs that the offending perception is being altered in your direction. Should the program start to slow, you can always accelerate matters by putting on more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

Yes, this is the chase we cut to - an aggressive blueprint that leaves you little choice but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move your key external stakeholders to action. In that way, you create the behavior change you need leading 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 985 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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