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PR’s Sweetest Music

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It’s a tune all managers can sing. And the lyrics go like this: successful business, non-profit, government agency and association managers start their winning ways by doing something positive about the behaviors of the very outside audiences that MOST affect their operations.

Then they claim the prize when their public relations creates the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving their most important managerial objectives.

In the midst of all this good news, comes a happy epiphany for the lucky managers: 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.

And look what could happen: this kind of public relations planning really CAN alter individual perception and lead to changed behaviors among your key outside audiences. But your PR effort must demand more than special events, news releases and talk show tactics if you are to receive the quality public relations results you believe you deserve.

It won’t be long before the desired end-products start showing up. And that’s when customers begin to make repeat purchases; capital givers or specifying sources begin to look your way; welcome bounces in show room visits occur; membership applications start to rise; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures start showing up; politicians and legislators begin looking at you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities; local civic leaders begin to seek you out; and prospects actually start to do business with you. The public relations people assigned to you can be of real use for your new opinion monitoring project because they are already in the perception and behavior business. But be certain those PR folks really accept why it’s SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Perhaps most important, be sure they believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Spend time with them reviewing your plans for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Consider questions like these: how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the exchange? Are you familiar with our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Be careful introducing professional survey firms to do the opinion gathering work because it can cost a lot more than using those PR folks of yours in that monitoring capacity. But whether it’s your people or a survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

You’ll want to establish an action goal here for the most serious problem areas you uncovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Will it be to straighten out that dangerous misconception? Correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentially painful rumor before it does more damage?

Like most goals, you’ll never achieve it in the absence of a strategy showing you how to get there. Furthermore, only three strategic options are available to you when it comes to solving perception and opinion problems. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Of course, the wrong strategy pick will taste like ketchup on your French Toast. So be certain your new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You certainly don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a strategy of reinforcement.

Good writing is always needed, and that’s especially true here because you must prepare a persuasive message that will help move your key audience to your way of thinking. It should be a carefully-written message aimed directly at your key external audience. Hopefully, your very best writer will work hard on the assignment because s/he must come up with language that is not merely 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 is as good a time as any to identify the communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. There are many available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.

The way in which you communicate your message can cause problems since the credibility of any message is always fragile. Which is why you may wish to unveil your corrective message before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases.

The inevitable topic of progress reports should move you to begin a second perception monitoring session among members of your external audience in order to measure your program’s headway. Many of the same questions used in your benchmark session can be used again. But now, you will be on guard for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

A slowing in your PR program’s forward movement will alert you to the need to speed things up by either adding more communications tactics and/or increasing their frequencies, or both.

Yes, this tune is all about doing something positive about the behaviors of the very outside audiences that MOST affect a business, non-profit, government agency or association manager’s operations.

Happily, if you are that manager, it will also create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change leading directly to achieving your most important objectives, and the sweetest managerial music imaginable.

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.
bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.prcommentary.com

PR’s Sweetest Music
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About Robert A. Kelly
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. bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.prcommentary.com WebProNews Writer
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