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What Kind of PR Makes Sense?

For business, non-profit and association managers, is it publicity that delivers newspaper and talk show mentions backed up by colorful brochures and videos, combined with special events that attract a lot of people?

Or could your business, non-profit or association PR dollar be better spent on public relations activity that creates behavior change among your key outside audiences that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives? And does so by persuading your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary succeed?

What we're talking about is the kind of PR that lets you do something positive about the behaviors of those external stakeholders of yours that MOST affect your organization. Which means the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors that help you win.

Here's a recipe for you: 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.

And it can generate results like increased membership applications; prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat purchases; capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities; and even improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies,

Once the program gets rolling, you also should see results such as new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; community service and sponsorship opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded feedback channels, not to mention new thoughtleader and special event contacts.

To garner such results your PR crew - agency or staff - must be committed to you, as the senior project manager, to the PR blueprint and its implementation, starting with target audience perception monitoring.

As you know, its extremely important that your key outside audiences see your operations, products or services in the most positive light. So make certain that your PR staff has bought into the whole effort. For example, do they accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit?

Review the PR blueprint with your PR team, especially the 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? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

IF the budget is available, survey firms obviously can handle 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.

But what about your public relations goal? You need a goal statement that speaks to the aberrations that showed up during your key audience perception monitoring. And it could call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about that damaging rumor.

PR 101 says when you set a goal, you need a strategy that shows you how to get there. Here, you have three strategic choices when it comes to handling a perception or opinion challenge: create perception where there may be none, change the perception, or reinforce it. A bad strategy pick will taste like lime zest on your veal chops, so be certain the new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. For example, you don't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

Your PR team has their work cut out for them because now they must come up with just the right, corrective language that will persuade an audience to your way of thinking. Words that are compelling, persuasive and believable AND clear and factual. You have little choice if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors.

Message impact is also key in such a message, so sit down again with your communications specialists and review your message for that quality as well.. Then, select the communications tactics most likely to carry your words 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.

The credibility of a message can depend on its delivery method. So, think about introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases or talk show appearances.

Calls for progress reports will send you and your PR folks back to the field for a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Using many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session, you'll now be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

If colleagues (or bosses) seem impatient for results, you can always accelerate things with more communications tactics and increased frequencies.

Folks act on their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. Which means you have next to no choice but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external audiences of yours to actions you desire.

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 1085 including guidelines and resource box. Robert A. Kelly 2004.

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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