Is This Anyway to Run Your PR?
You bet! Especially for business, non-profit and association managers who REALLY need to persuade their key outside audiences to their way of thinking. Then move them to behaviors that lead to the success of their department, division or subsidiary.
Could this be you? If so, you may need to reduce your emphasis on tactical public relations weaponry with its simple print and broadcast mentions.
And instead, use a broader, more comprehensive and workable public relations blueprint to alter your key external audience perceptions – perceptions that deliver the changed behaviors you need to achieve your managerial goals.
Why go to this much trouble?
Because of the possible results, of course. Results like new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making repeat purchases; prospects starting to work with you; membership applications on the rise; capital givers or specifying sources looking your way, and even bounces in showroom visits.
But, what about that core PR blueprint that gets everyone working towards the same external audience behaviors, and that insures that your organization’s public relations effort stays sharply focused?
Try this on for size: 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.
Just what will you do with such a plan?
Well, find out who among your key external audiences is behaving in ways that help or hinder the achievement of your objectives. Then, list them according to how severely their behaviors affect your organization.
But what do members of that key outside audience think about your organization? If the budget to pay for what could be costly professional survey counsel isn’t there, you and your PR colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions yourselves. Actually, they should be quite familiar with perception and behavior matters.
Best way to get that handled is to meet with members of that outside audience asking questions like “Are you familiar with our services or products?” “Have you ever had contact with anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience?” And if you are that manager, you must be sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies. And watch carefully for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. When you find such, they will need to be corrected, as they inevitably lead to negative behaviors.
Now we select the specific perception to be altered which then becomes your public relations goal. You obviously want to correct those untruths, inaccuracies, misconceptions or false assumptions.
Here we go with the strategy. Fact is that a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like clam chowder without the clams. So, as you select one of three strategies available to you (and especially constructed to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,) what you want to do is insure that the goal and its strategy match each other. You wouldn’t want to select “change existing perception” when current perception is just right suggesting a “reinforce” strategy.
O.K., it’s writing time – time to prepare a compelling message carefully constructed to alter your key target audience’s perception, as specified by your public relations goal.
Fortunately, when you distribute it, you can always put your corrective message together with another news announcement or presentation which may serve to downplay the apparent need for such a correction.
The message conveyed must be compelling and crystal-clear as to what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Of course you must be truthful and your position logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that target audience, and actually move perception in your direction.
Occasionally, you’ll hear the communications tactics needed to move your message to the attention of that key external audience, referred to as “beasts of burden” because they must carry your persuasive new thoughts to the eyes and ears of those important outside people.
Actually, you have a wide choice because the list of tactics is lengthy. Included are letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases and speeches. Or, you might choose radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours or customer briefings. There are scores available and the only selection requirement is that the communications tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just like the members of your key target audience.
Again fortunately, things can always be hurried along by adding more communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.
Those around you will soon be asking about progress. But by that time, you will already be hard at work remonitoring perceptions among your target audience members to test the effectiveness of your communications tactics. Using questions similar to those used during your earlier monitoring session, you’ll now look closely for signs that audience perceptions are beginning to move towards your position.
Yes, I believe this IS the way to run your PR, in particular when you are doing something about the behaviors of those important outside audiences that most affect your operation.when you are creating the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.and when you are doing so by persuading those key outside folks to their way of thinking by helping to move them to take actions that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
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.