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How To Hit My Big Fat Bullseye

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So, what IS a big, fat bullseye? Well, as an example, for the public relations professional, it means changing somebody’s behavior if s/he is to hit that big fat bullseye and earn a paycheck – everything else is a means to that end.

Why? In public relations, a bullseye can mean survival when it successfully changes the perceptions and, hence, the behaviors of certain groups of people important to the success of the business, or non-profit, or association or public agency. In other words, when those changes clearly meet the original behavior modification goal set at the beginning of the program, the public relations effort is successful and scores the bullseye.

But, is public relations really equipped to do that? Yes, because its roots are planted deeply in the principle that people act on their own perceptions of the facts. When public relations successfully creates, changes or reinforces that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors affect the organization, it accomplishes its mission.

O.K., how does it work?

1. The public relations effort must be focused on the three
realities alluded to above:

  • People act on their own perceptions of the facts;
  • Perceptions lead to behaviors;
  • Something can be done about those perceptions and
    behaviors that lead to achieving the organization’s objectives.
  • 2. Then, identify the key operating problem.
    Example: a national marketer of furniture imported from the Far East. News reports and other input, amplified by competitive trouble-making out in the trade, suggest there are quality problems in the factories operated by the company’s suppliers in Southeast Asia.

    3. Verify the truth or falsity of the allegations.
    Because sales have leveled off and are starting to decline, public relations specialists working closely with the company’s manufacturing people here and abroad, establish clearly that rumors of lower quality are simply untrue.

    4. Verify the status of both consumer and trade perceptions of the company’s product quality. However, while sampling consumer opinion through personal contact and informal polling out in the marketplace, it becomes clear that there IS a disturbing perception that the company’s line of furniture is “of low quality and not worth the prices asked.”

    It’s also useful to recall here that public relations problems are usually defined by what people THINK about a set of facts, as opposed to the actual truth of the matter. In this case, it’s clear that negative trade and consumer perceptions about the company’s
    products, however inaccurate they may be, account for the decline
    in showroom traffic and sales, and must be confronted.

    5. Identify the key audiences.
    First, do a priority-ranking of those audiences with a clear interest in the business, often referred to as “stakeholders” or “publics.” In this case, at the top of the list is the furniture-buying public – prospects and customers – as well as the trade and business communities, employees, local thought- leaders and media in the company’s retail locations.

    6. Establish the public relations goal:
    begin the process of changing public perception of the company’s furniture quality from negative to positive, leading to consumer behavioral changes, in turn attracting furniture buyers to company showrooms once again.

    7. Determine the public relations strategy.
    Will it be to CREATE opinion where none exists, CHANGE existing opinion, or REINFORCE that existing opinion? In this case, it’s clear that considerable existing opinion has turned negative on the quality of the company’s furniture. So, the public relations strategy will
    be to CHANGE that opinion from negative to positive.

    8. Establish the perception and behavior modification goals.
    They’ll be measured in terms of customers returning to the showrooms, along with increasing sales, in the first three to six months following the kickoff of the communications effort.

    9. Prepare persuasive messages.
    Bringing those important target audiences around to one’s way of thinking depends heavily on the quality of the message prepared for each of them.

    It’s not easy. The messages must disarm the rumors of shoddy quality by countering with clear evidence of excellent design and construction quality, and seconded by credible, third-party endorsements such as satisfied customers and top design consultants. They will impart a sense of credibility to the company’s statements. Regular assessments of how opinion is currently running among target audiences must be performed, constantly adjusting the message.

    10. How will target audiences actually be reached?
    Select the most effective communications tactics remembering their key role as “message carriers” between the business and its main audiences, in this case, sales prospects.

    Choices include face-to-face meetings, hand-placed feature articles and broadcast appearances, special consumer briefings, news releases, announcement luncheons, onsite media
    interviews,
    facility tours, promotional contests, brochures and a variety of other communications tactics.

    Special events are effective in reaching target audiences with the message. They are newsworthy by definition and include activities such as financial roadshows, awards ceremonies,
    trade
    conventions, celebrity appearances and open houses.

    11. Monitor progress and look for signs of improvement.
    The public relations people must speak regularly with members of each target audience, monitor print and broadcast media for evidence of the business’ messages or viewpoints. They must also interact with key customers, prospects and other influential people.

    12. Signs that the messages are moving opinion in the company’s direction will start appearing. Indicators like comments in community meetings, local newspaper editorials, emails from members of target audiences as well as public references by political figures and local celebrities.

    The action program should begin to gain and hold the kind of public understanding and acceptance that leads to the desired shift in behavior. Done right – especially against the
    reality of plunging sales – we’re talking about nothing less than the company’s survival.

    When you combine a sound strategy with the right tactics, not surprisingly you move towards success – first, altered perceptions. Second, modified behaviors. And then, a happy CEO and a big fat public relations bullseye.

    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.
    bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.prcommentary.com

    How To Hit My Big Fat Bullseye
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    This entry was posted in Business.
    About Robert A. Kelly
    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. bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.prcommentary.com WebProNews Writer
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