you don't know about PR can hurt you, and hurt bad if you are a business,
non-profit or association manager. Especially when you rely too heavily on
tactics like special events, brochures and press releases to get your
Instead, pursue public relations that does nothing less than alter
individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among those key
outside audiences of yours.
In other words, the best approach does something positive about the
behaviors of those key external audiences that MOST affect your operation.
That approach persuades your important external folks to your way of
thinking, and moves them to take actions that allow your department,
division or subsidiary to succeed.
Thus it creates the kind of stakeholder behavior change that leads
directly to achieving your managerial objectives.
Best part is, once you digest the underlying premise of public relations,
you'll understand how the right PR really CAN alter individual perception
and lead to those changed behaviors you need. Here's how it goes: 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.
Keep in mind that it requires more than good old special events, brochures
and news releases if you really want to end up with your PR money's worth.
Fact is, business, non-profit and association managers who employ this
kind of public relations can benefit from results such as new proposals
for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits;
membership applications on the rise; community service and sponsorship
opportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expanded feedback
channels, not to mention new thought-leader and special event contacts.
Over time, you'll notice customers making repeat purchases; prospects
reappearing; stronger developing relationships with the educational,
labor, financial and healthcare communities; improved relations with
government agencies and legislative bodies, and even capital givers or
specifying sources glancing your way.
It goes without saying that you want your most important outside audiences
to really perceive your operations, products or services in a positive
light. So take pains to be sure that your PR staff has bought into the
whole effort. Convince yourself that they accept the reality that
perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your
Spend some time together and review the PR blueprint very carefully with
your staff, especially regarding how you will gather and monitor
perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside
audiences. Questions such as: 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 how things
went? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?
Certainly you can count on professional survey people to handle the
perception monitoring phases of your program IF the budget is available.
But luckily, 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.
We should spend a moment on your public relations
goal. You need one that addresses the problems that cropped up
during your key audience perception monitoring. Chances are, it will call
for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that
gross inaccuracy, or doing something about that damaging rumor.
Another truism is that goals need strategies to show you how to get there.
And you have just 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. Unfortunately, selecting a bad strategy will
taste like maple syrup on your ziti, 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"
Because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is awfully hard
work, you now must create the right corrective language including words
that are compelling, persuasive, believable AND clear and factual. This is
a must if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your
point of view, leading to the desired behaviors. So, meet again with your
communications specialists and review your message for impact and
Now you need to select the communications tactics most likely to carry
your words to the attention of your target audience. Happily there are
dozens 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
Sad, but the credibility of your message could depend on its delivery
method. So, consider introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than
using higher-profile communications such as news releases or talk show
Progress reports will suggest themselves in due course. And that probably
will mean you and your PR folks should return 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,
watch carefully for signs that your communications tactics have worked and
that the negative perception is being altered in your direction.
If you sense your colleagues or your client becoming impatient, you can
always accelerate matters with a broader selection of communications
tactics AND increased frequencies.
You won't get hurt when you apply your budget to public relations activity
that creates behavior change among your key outside audiences that leads
directly to achieving your goals.
That will demonstrate conclusively that the right PR really CAN alter
individual perception. And better yet, lead to changed behaviors that help
you reach those managerial objectives and come out on top.
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 communications, U.S.
Department of the Interior; and
deputy assistant press secretary, The White House.
He holds a bachelor of science degree from Columbia University,
with a major in public relations.
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