Move Key Audiences to Actions You Want
Try a blueprint like this: 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.
It seems worth the effort when you get results like fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to do business with you; welcome bounces in show room visits; membership applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases; community leaders beginning to seek you out; capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way, and even politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.
But winners don’t pull it off by themselves. First, they find out who among their important outside audiences is behaving in ways that help or hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then they list them according to how severely their behaviors affect their organization.
Next they take steps to learn exactly how most members of their key outside audience think about their organization. And by the way, they make certain their entire PR team buys into the crucial importance of knowing for sure how their outside audiences perceive their operations, products or services. And they dig deep to ensure they REALLY accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can damage your operation.
When it’s time to activate the PR blueprint, monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audience. Ask questions like these: 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?
Not so incidentally, your PR folks are already in the perception and behavior business, so they can be of real use for this opinion monitoring project. Professional survey firms can be brought in to handle the opinion monitoring chore, but that can be a costly undertaking. But whether it’s your people or a survey firm who asks the questions, your objective is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions .
Here, ask yourself which of the above abberations is serious enough to become your corrective public relations goal? Clarify the misconception? Spike that rumor? Correct the false assumption? Fix those inaccuracies? Or yet another offensive perception that could lead to negative results?
Once you firmly set your public relations goal, you can assure you’ll achieve it by picking the right strategy from the three choices available to you. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Especially important that your new strategy naturally compliments your new public relations goal.
How will your message deal with the offending perception when you address your key stakeholder audience to help persuade them to your way of thinking?
Identify your best writing talent to prepare the message because s/he must put together some very special, corrective language. 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 have in mind.
Now it’s time for rapid fire communications tactics to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Making certain that the tactics you select have a record of reaching folks like your audience members, you can pick from dozens that are available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others.
Of course, how one communicates often affects the credibility of the message, so you may wish to deliver it in small getogethers like meetings and presentations rather than through a higher-profile media announcement.
It will soon be time to show signs of progress. And that will call for a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Employing many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session, you will now be watching carefully for signs that the offending perception is being altered in your direction. Of course you can always accelerate the program by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.
At day’s end, the managers to whom this is addressed, also know this essential truth: they need an aggressive blueprint such as this one that will deliver behavior change among their most important outside audiences leading directly to achieving their managerial objectives.
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.