address this article to businesses,
associations, non-profits and public entity managements seeking a direct
connection between the money they're planning to spend on public
relations, and the achievement of their organizational objectives.
We can save a lot of time, you
and I, if we can agree on one point: I believe that deep down -- and I
mean DEEP down -- most chief executives understand that doing something
about the behaviors of their most significant external audiences can rank
in importance right up there with increased sales and earnings.
Whether they do anything about
it or not is another question. But I believe many sense - as do
legislators who know they cannot govern without the consent of the
governed - that managements cannot "govern" their enterprises
without the support and understanding of their most important audiences. I
refer to audiences such as members, supporters, customers, sponsors,
prospects, regulators, employees, thoughtleaders, public interest groups,
journalists, suppliers, strategic partners, educators, trade unions,
community residents and the like.
If I'm right, there are some
bright days ahead in this brand new century not only for public relations
people but world commerce as well.
Fortunately for all concerned,
that success will spring from the fundamental premise of public relations:
people act on their own perception of the facts, and those perceptions
lead to behaviors about which something can be done. When public relations
creates, changes or reinforces that opinion by reaching, persuading and
moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors affect the
organization, the public relations effort is a success.
What that should mean to a CEO
seems obvious. "I guess that money I'm spending on public relations
really could result in the kind of change in behaviors of my key
stakeholders that leads directly to the achievement of my organizational
That conclusion will let us do
what we do best - reach those key audience perceptions with the facts as
we know them. Hopefully, the messages we use will be clear and persuasive,
and will create, change or reinforce perceptions as needed, then alter
behaviors in the employer/client's direction.
When the problem solving
sequence is completed, that particular public relations mission is
accomplished. However, we must constantly guard against simply emphasizing
those communications tactics we fervently HOPE will reach the target
audience. Instead, we must go further and actively track how well those
tactics and persuasive messages are altering the perception of that target
audience. And then monitor to what degree audience behaviors have moved in
This matters in a very
important way. Management really CAN establish the desired behavior change
up front in the planning phase, then insist on getting that result before
pronouncing the public relations effort a success.
What that means is that
management's comfort level with their public relations investment will
increase when that investment produces the behavior modification they said
they wanted at the beginning of the program. Because they'll KNOW they're
getting their money's worth.
This is powerful stuff! A
chief executive of an association, a business, a non-profit and even a
public entity can work with his or her public relations counsel and agree
in the planning phase what they must do to achieve a specified adjustment
in the behaviors of a really important external audience.
Even better, the way to do
this is well-known in the public relations business:
- select your
- gauge its perception levels;
- gauge the behaviors that have resulted;
- set your public relations goal;
- set your public relations strategy;
- prepare the persuasive message;
- select and implement the communications tactics
that will carry the
message to that key audience;
- monitor for perception change;
- monitor for behavior change and, hopefully, a
What will the employer/client
want from us as we move ahead into the 21st Century? I believe s/he will
want us to apply our special skills in a way that helps achieve his or her
business objectives. But, as always, no matter what strategic plan we
create to solve a problem, no matter what tactical program we put in
place, at the end of the day, we must modify somebody's behavior if we are
to deliver value to the employer/client and earn our money.
Now, you ask, if public
relations is so good, why do some managers shy away from it? I believe
it's because they don't understand or believe the direct connection
between what public relations is capable of delivering , and their need to
achieve their specific business objectives.
It's lost opportunity of the
worst kind. And a shame because the reason we do public relations in the
first place is to change the behaviors of certain groups of people
important to the success of those very Doubting Thomases (and Thomasettes!).
When at last we come to the
end game, we'll continue to ask the $50 question - did we meet the
behavior modification goal we established up front? If we did, our public
relations program is successful. If we didn't, we must reevaluate our
goal, strategy, messages, communications tactics and our audience
perception data gathering methods, and adjust them for the next effort.
Now, when will that
employer/client of ours be fully satisfied with the public relations
results we have achieved? Only when our "reach, persuade and
move-to-desired-action" efforts have produced the visible
modification in the behaviors of those target audiences they wish to
Let me conclude our look at
Public Relations: Power Tool For The 21st Century by highlighting once
again the three benefits our employer/client will continue to receive when
the behavioral changes become apparent and meet the program's original
behavior modification goal.
public relations program will be a success.
2) By achieving the behavioral goal they set at the
beginning of the program,
they will be using a dependable and
accurate public relations performance
3) When our "reach, persuade and
move-to-desired-action" efforts produce
that visible modification in the
behaviors of those people they wish to
influence, they will be using public
relations' core value to its very best
advantage ensuring that they really
DO receive their "money's worth."
consultant Bob Kelly was
director of PR for Pepsi-Cola
Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR,
Olin Corp.; VP-PR, Newport News
Shipbuilding; director of
communications, U.S. Department
of the Interior, and deputy
assistant press secretary, The
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