PR for Brand New Managers
Just promoted to manager? Here’s something you need to know.
Whether you are now a business, non-profit or association manager, your road to success really means achieving your new managerial objectives by altering perceptions. And I refer to perceptions leading to changed behaviors among those key outside audiences of yours that most affect your new group, department, division or subsidiary. And, incidentally, key external folks whose behaviors will affect whether you will be a success in your new role as a manager.
Along the way, hopefully, you’ll not only do something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of yours that most affect your operation, you’ll persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Fortunately, others have trod this path before you. Lessons learned include this one: 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 usually accomplished.
That approach lets you attend to the perceptions and behaviors of the very people who could hold your professional success as a manager in their hands. And not spend all your time with tactics like special events, brochures and press releases.
When your PR program goes the way you want, you should start to see new approaches by capital givers and specifying sources; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to do business with you; welcome bounces in show room visits; rising membership applications; community leaders beginning to seek you out; customers making repeat purchases, not to mention politicians and legislators viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.
You are forgiven for wondering just who will perform these labors. Perhaps an outside PR agency team? Or people assigned to your operation? Or your own public relations folks? No matter where they come from, they must be committed to you and this new PR plan starting with key audience perception monitoring.
As a brand new manager, you need some back and forth with your public relations support people to be sure that those assigned to you are clear on why it’s vital to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. They must accept the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.
When you talk with them, be clear about how you plan to proceed, in particular how the perception monitoring and gathering will proceed by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. As examples, how much do you know about our chief executive? 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 expensive to use professional survey firms in the perception monitoring phases of your program. If the resources are there, by all means do so. But it should also be a source of comfort to know that if the budget is not available, your PR people are also in the perception and behavior business and can pursue the same objective: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.
The worst distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring will be no match for the right kind of PR goal. And that’s because the new goal will probably call directly for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor dead in its tracks.
HOW to move forward with your new PR effort is always challenging, especially when it comes to selecting the right strategy to tell you how to get where you want to be. Keep in mind that there are just three strategic options available to you when it comes to handling a perception and opinion challenge. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Since the wrong strategy pick will taste like butterscotch sauce on your antipasto, assure yourself that the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a “reinforce” strategy.
Here’s a case where strong language can be an asset, because someone on your PR staff must write a strong message and aim it at members of your target audience. Obviously, crafting action-forcing language to persuade an audience to your way of thinking really is hard work. Which is why you need your first-string varsity writer because s/he must create some very special, corrective language. Words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to correct something and shift perception/opinion towards your point of view leading to the behaviors you are targeting.
With all that a new manager has to do to get oriented to the new responsibility, you’ll be relieved that one of the less complex jobs is selecting the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. You can do this after you check out the draft message with your PR people for impact and persuasiveness. There are dozens of tactics available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.
Another caveat, you may decide to unveil your message before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases. The reason: a message’s believability can depend on the credibility of the means used to deliver it. Consider it your signal to begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience, when the subject of progress reports arises. Many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session can be used again. But now, you will stay alert for signs that the problem perception is being altered in your direction.
Also keep in mind that if your program suffers a loss of momentum, you can always speed up things by adding more communications tactics, and increasing their frequencies.
Brand new managers often are anxious for positive results on their new job and, to that end, they had best worry more about external audience behaviors than exploding out of the gate with tactical broadsides.
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.