PR That Entrepreneurs Often Overlook
If that sounds like you, here’s what you may be missing once the new enterprise is launched
Public relations that really does something about the behaviors of those key outside audiences that most affect your new enterprise.
PR that uses a fundamental blueprint to deliver external stakeholder behavior change – the kind that leads directly to achieving your venture’s objectives.
And PR that persuades many of those important outside folks to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that help your new enterprise succeed.
That’s why you as a small business owner must gear up to deal with the unattended perceptions out there that could nudge your fledgling venture closer to bankruptcy than success. Perceptions that, if left unattended, may well result in actions that run counter to those you and your banker had in mind.
For example, when new ventures fail, the wreckage is often assigned to undercapitalization. Seldom is failure attributed to a lack of an effective action plan that might have modified the behavior of prospects and other collaborators in a positive way, thus averting that failure.
So why support your new venture with press release public relations when a basic PR blueprint like this one can hold the key to your success? 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.
Add to that these kinds of results: fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making repeat purchases; prospects starting to look your way; community leaders beginning to seek you out; and even politicians and legislators viewing you as a true innovator.
Major caveat for a new entrepreneurial venture: because the cost of gathering key audience perception data – an absolute must in this business – can be substantial, it should be built into the original funding budget. That suggests that you, as the new venture leader, must take the lead in assuring upfront funding of the perception monitoring function.
So, with the people whose perceptions of your venture you care most about now the target of your PR effort, you are ready to launch a well-planned public relations program that can reach, persuade and move those individuals to actions you desire.
Here’s a public relations checklist entrepreneurs may find helpful.
>From Day 1, you have to be certain your staff or agency public relations people are really committed to knowing how your outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. And further, that negative key audience perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can hurt your new venture. Fortunately, your PR people are in the perception and behavior business to begin with, so they should be of real assistance for your opinion monitoring project.
Professional survey firms are always available, but that can be expensive. So, whether it’s your people or a survey firm asking the questions, your objective is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions.
First, rank your external audiences as to impacts on your operation. For example, #1 customers; #2 prospects; #3 employees; #4 local and trade media; #5 your local business community; #6 community leaders, and so forth. Then, involve your PR team in plans for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of those you expect will be your most important outside audiences.
Second, interact with members of your key audience and jot down their first impressions of your fledgling operation, especially any problem perceptions.
Use questions like these: Now that you’ve read our brochure, do you believe our products/services will be of use to people in this area? Have you used the services of our competitors? Did you find them useful? Fairly priced? Any problems? Listen carefully for any rumors or misconceptions about your new operation.
Third, decide which of the negatives you discovered, rates as the #1 corrective public relations goal – for example, clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct the false assumption or fix a certain inaccuracy.
Fourth, when you finally have the chance to address your key stakeholder audience to help persuade them to your way of thinking, what will you say? Ideally, you will prepare persuasive and compelling messages that not only provide details about your product and service quality and diversity, but address perception problems that surfaced during your monitoring sessions. As the method of communication can affect the credibility of the message, you may wish to deliver it in small meetings or presentations rather than through high-visibility media releases.
Not so incidentally, here’s where a talented writer earns his or her keep because s/he must put together some very special, corrective language. Words that are not only believable, but clear and factual if they are to correct the negatives and shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you have in mind.
Fifth, in the same way Quesadillas come with sauteed onions and smoky cheese, the right PR strategy tells you how to reach your goal. But just three strategies are available in matters of perception and opinion — change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. And be sure your new strategy is a natural fit with your new public relations goal.
Sixth, things get simpler here. Select 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 of tactics. Everything from speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others.
Seventh, how do you decide that your efforts are changing perceptions for the better? As time passes, you should notice increased awareness of your business, a growing public perception of the role your business plays in the community; and, of course, growing numbers of prospects.
You can track these results by interacting on a regular basis with people from each of your key audiences, especially by monitoring print and broadcast media and through interaction with key customers and prospects.
But eighth, questions will soon appear as to progress. That will demand a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Using the same questions used in the first benchmark session, you will now be alert to indications that the negative perception is being altered as you wished.
In public relations, we’re lucky that these efforts can be accelerated through more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.
The stakes are high – the very survival of your new enterprise!
So, concentrate on what’s most important — people in your new venture’s community or marketing area behave like people everywhere, they take actions based on their perception of the facts available to them.
In the proverbial nutshell, here you have a workable public relations blueprint that can help you persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to behave in a way that leads to the success of your new enterprise.
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.