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Question: Do You Control Your Unit’s PR?

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If you don’t, it could be that those who do are actually preoccupied with moving messages from one point to another using simple tactics like broadcast plugs, brochures and press releases.

What’s missing from that picture, of course, is you as a manager doing something meaningful about the behaviors of those important audiences who most affect the business, non-profit, government agency or association sub-unit you manage.

For example, the creation of the kind of external stakeholder behavior CHANGE that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives. As well as your follow-through in persuading those key outside folks to your way of thinking by helping move them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.

If true, there’s a lot missing from your control and oversight.

Fortunately, the underlying premise on which public relations is based, is really proactive: 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.

The good news emanating from that premise is that the right 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. That way, you really will stand a good chance of getting the best public relations has to offer.

Employ that approach and the results you seek should soon come your way. For example, community leaders begin to seek you out; and prospects actually start to do business with you; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures begin showing up; customers starting to make repeat purchases; capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way; welcome bounces in show room visits occur; membership applications start to rise; politicians and legislators start looking at you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities. It’s obvious that the public relations staff itself can be of real use when you commence the new opinion monitoring project. After all, they are already in the perception and behavior business. But to be certain, determine if those PR folks really accept why it’s SO important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. And this is really important: be sure they believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can help or hurt your operation.

Let’s talk for a moment about your public relations plan. In everyone’s best interests, go over it carefully with the public relations professionals on your team. Talk over how you plan to monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Try to 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 exchange? Are you familiar with our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

Retaining professional survey firms will be proposed as the best way to do the opinion gathering work. But have no illusions about the added cost when compared to using your own PR staff. 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.

Next we set an achievable goal addressing the most serious problem areas you uncovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Will it be to straighten out a dangerous misconception? Correct a gross inaccuracy? Or, stop a potentially painful rumor before it does more damage?

Because, a matching strategy is mandatory in order to show you how to reach that goal, we address it here. For better or worse, there are only three strategic options 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. But the wrong strategy pick will taste like sour orange marmalade on your Gnocchi. 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.

Every public relations professional is painfully aware of how crucial good writing is to the business. And here, it’s true once again as you face the reality that you must put together 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 best writer willingly accepts the assignment because s/he must produce language that is not merely compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if it is to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you have in mind.

As you consider those communications tactics most likely to carry your message to the attention of your target audience, you’ll be pleased to discover that there are many waiting for you. 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.

Keep in mind that the method by which you communicate your message will bear heavily on its credibility, which is always fragile. That’s why you may wish to unveil your corrective message before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases.

As you measure the headway made in moving key audience perception, it will become clear that a second and comparative perception monitoring session will be needed. Those data will comprise your first progress report. Fortunately, you can use many of the same questions used in your benchmark session. But now, you will be watching for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

First-aid may be needed if momentum slows. And that suggests speeding up matters by either adding more communications tactics and/or increasing their frequencies, or both.

Maintaining control of your unit’s public relations will confirm that, in fact, you really ARE doing something meaningful about the behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours that MOST affect the group, department, division or subsidiary you manage.

Then you’ll know for certain that public relations is working well for you.

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

Question: Do You Control Your Unit’s PR?
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This entry was posted in Business.
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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