O.K., Show Me The Value!
Let’s start with a question: with public relation’s obvious values, I really wonder why any organization intent on achieving its objectives would ever pursue them WITHOUT the support of a first-class public relations effort?
OK, some values are not as obvious as others, but they’re just as useful to you as those public relations values that jump right off the page.
Just look at the fundamental premise of public relations: people act on their perception of the facts leading to behaviors about which something can be done. When public relations creates, changes or reinforces that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public relations mission is complete AND successful.
Reading those words, who can seriously question whether any business, association, non-profit or public entity should embrace it?
That fundamental premise tells us that precisely because public relations zeros in on altering the perceptions, and thus behaviors of your key target audiences, it helps you get to where you want to be. And that strongly suggests that the proper application of public relations can be central not only to your organization’s success, but possibly to its very survival.
We’re lucky public opinion is the leverage that allows us to succeed. And that’s because our most useful contribution to business is the strategic ability to create, change or reinforce existing public perception and behaviors. It is this capability, this talent if you will, that can lead an employer/client to organization success.
Equally valuable are public relation’s carefully selected tactics tailored to reach target audiences through effective communications. And we also create and tailor persuasive messages designed to influence their perception/behavior, and to gain momentum and impact by using those tactics with pinpoint accuracy and timing.
At the same time, the employer/client receives value, and benefits when public relations gains and holds the understanding and acceptance of those audiences, those publics, without which his or her organization simply cannot prosper.
While all this is going on, the business’ reputation is burnished delivering value that only strengthens its ability to achieve its goals and objectives.
A successful business that benefits from public relations values such as these is more apt to meet its obligations to society. Especially as a good corporate citizen, taxpayer, employer and reliable maker/supplier of quality, fairly-priced goods or services. In other words, it delivers enormous value by serving the public interest.
For better or worse, public relations problems and challenges are usually defined by what people THINK about a set of facts, versus the truth of the matter. Often, this is off-putting to people – somehow, it seems to mean public relations is without substance. But the key factor to remember here is that how people PERCEIVE the facts leads inevitably to very real, predictable behaviors which can, and often do create the clear and present public relations challenges to which we commit our resources.
The benefits keep coming. Yet another value of public relations is the reality that all-important behavior changes can be clearly monitored and assessed as to their success. In other words, gathering evidence for those paying the bill that the communications tactics have actually changed behaviors.
We look for signs of this success via Internet chatter, in print and broadcast news coverage, reports from the field, letters-to-the-editor, consumer and customer reactions, shareholder letters, comments from community leaders, informal polls of employees, retirees, industrial neighbors and local businesses as well as feedback gathered from suppliers and the reaction from elected officials, union leaders and government agencies.
The End-Game For This Value-Rich Discipline?
When you as the employer/client measure its real effectiveness, you will be fully satisfied with those public relations results only when its “reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action” efforts produce that visible modification in the behaviors of those people you wish to influence.
Still, no matter what strategic plan we create to solve a problem, no matter what tactical program we put in place, at the end of the day we must modify somebody’s behavior if we are to provide that primary value.
And the best part is that when the behavioral changes become apparent, and meet the program’s original behavior modification goal, three satisfying values are realized:
One, the public relations program is a success. Two, by achieving the behavioral goal you set at the beginning, you are using a dependable and accurate public relations performance measurement. And three, when our “reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action” efforts produce a visible modification in the behaviors of those people you wish to influence, you are spending your public relations dollar to its very best advantage.
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.