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Robert A. Kelly © 2005.
Managers: Do You Trust Your PR?
You can if, as a business, non-profit or association
manager, you can honestly say you are doing something
positive about the behaviors of those important external
audiences of yours that most affect your department,
group, division or subsidiary.
And particularly so when you persuade those key outside
folks to your way of thinking, and move them to take
actions that allow you to succeed.
In its simplest form, of course, what you are doing is
helping achieve your managerial objectives by the simple
tactic of altering perception leading to changed behaviors.
And there's a reliable guideline that supports that notion:
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
I call that guideline the fundamental premise of public
relations from which a variety of satisfying results can
emanate. For instance, community leaders beginning to
seek you out; capital givers or specifying sources
starting to look your way; overdue bounces in show
room visits; prospects starting to work with you;
membership applications on the rise; customers starting
to make repeat purchases; fresh proposals for strategic
alliances and joint ventures; and even politicians and
legislators starting to view you as a key member of the
business, non-profit or association communities.
First things first, you'll need to get your public relations
people on board this public relations bandwagon. They
must agree with the vital necessity to know how your
outside audiences perceive your operations, products or
services. Be especially certain they accept the reality that
negative perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that
can damage your organization.
Schedule a special sitdown with PR staff to run through
just how you plan to guage perception and monitor opinion
among your key outside audiences. Go over the questions
to be asked: 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?
It's fortunate for you and I that our PR people are already
in the perception and behavior business and can be of real
use for the opinion monitoring projects. You always have
the option of using professional survey firms, but that can
wind up costing real money.
But, whether it's your people
or a survey firm who handles the questioning, the objective
is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded
rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions.
One of the aberations you discover will stand out clearly
as your corrective public relations goal ? it could easily
be to clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct
the false assumption or fix a variety of other possible
Simplifying matters is the reality that you can meet that
goal only when you select the right strategy from the
three choices available to you. Change existing perception,
create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it.
Using the wrong strategy is about as satisfying as using
horseradish on your grits! So please be certain the new
strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations
goal. You wouldn't want to select "change" when the
facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.
Here, you may come to see this chore as the toughest
part of the job -- write a persuasive message aimed at
members of your target audience. Yes, it's always a
challenge to put together action-forcing language that
will help persuade any audience to your way of thinking.
By all means, pick your best writer for this assignment.
You need words that are not only compelling, persuasive
and believable, but clear and factual if they are to shift
perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead
to the behaviors you desire.
With message writing behind you, you need to identify
the communications tactics you need to carry your
message to the attention of your target audience.
that the tactics you select have a record of reaching folks
like your audience members, you can select from
speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer
briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal
meetings and many others.
Another reality in this business is that the credibility of the
message can depend on the credibility of its delivery
method. Which could lead you to deliver it in smaller
meetings and presentations rather than through a higher-
profile media announcement.
As it becomes obvious that a progress report will be needed,
you and your PR team will want to undertake a second
perception monitoring session with members of your
external audience. Many of the same questions used in
the first benchmark session can be used again.
however, you will be on alert for indications that the bad
news perception is being altered in your direction.
In the event of a slowdown in program momentum, PR
program such as this usually can be accelerated by
adding more communications tactics as well as increasing
Trusting your PR program to deliver the bacon is really
a matter of persuading your key external stakeholders to
your way of thinking, then moving them to behave in a
way that leads to the achievement of your managerial
objectives and the success of your operation.
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-
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.
By: Robert A. Kelly