Are You Cool With This?

Please feel free to publish this article in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. Only requirement: you must use the Robert A. Kelly byline and resource box. Word count is 1200 including guidelines and box. Robert A. Kelly © 2006. Are You Cool With This? Managers can be cool, right? Right! Especially business, non-profit, public entity and association managers who combine a sound public relations strategy with effective communications tactics leading directly to the bottom line – perception altered, behavior modified, employer/ client/member objective achieved. If you don’t as yet fall into that category, you may be interested in embracing the notion of doing something positive about the behaviors of the very outside audiences that MOST affect your operation. The result might be a surprise as you start to persuade your key external audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed. But why be surprised when all that is required is a first class plan, a plan that will get each of your team members and organizational colleagues working towards the same external stakeholder behaviors? Actually, I wouldn’t be approaching the subject this way if there wasn’t such a plan especially designed to keep a manager’s public relations effort “on message:” for example, 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. We’re fortunate that we won’t have to wait long for results to appear. For instance, capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat purchases; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; a rebound in showroom visits; membership applications on the rise; new thoughtleader and special event contacts; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; fresh community service and sponsorship opportunities; and even stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities. The way in which you use your PR staff will impact your success as a manager. Will you use your regular public relations staff? People assigned to you from above? Or will it be PR agency staff? Regardless, they must be committed to you as the senior project manager, and to the PR blueprint starting with key audience perception monitoring. It would be a good idea at this time to satisfy yourself that team members really believe that it’s crucially important to know how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Be certain they buy the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit. Another good idea is a review of the PR blueprint with staff. In particular your plan for monitoring and gathering perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. 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? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures? While costly, outside survey counsel can be used in the perception monitoring phases of your program. But keep in mind that 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 most harmful issues turned up during your key audience perception monitoring will demand that you do something about them. This will turn out to be your new public relations goal calling, for example, for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor. If you are to be successful in achieving your new PR goal, you will need a solid strategy to back it up. One that clearly indicates to you and the PR staff how to proceed. But remember 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. The wrong strategy pick will taste like liver-stuffed ravioli. So, be certain the new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. Obviously, you don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a “reinforce” strategy. Now, because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is not easy, those PR folks of yours must come up with words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual. Only in this way will you be able to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the behaviors you are targeting. Your public relations staff can regularly reevaluate the message to reconfirm that it’s up to snuff and really persuasive. Next, you’ll want to select the communications tactics most likely to carry that message to the attention of your target audience. There are scores of available tactics. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Just be certain that those you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members. More often than you might guess, the credibility of the message itself can actually depend on the perception of its delivery method. So, you may decide to kick off the corrective message by unveiling it before smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases. It’s also advisable to schedule a followup perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You and your PR people should plan another visit to the field where you can gather comparative data for use in producing progress reports. You’ll want to use many of the same questions used in the benchmark session. Only this time, you will be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction. Things can always slow down. So be ready to accelerate matters with more communications tactics and increased frequencies. What you’ve now accomplished is simply this. You’ve moved beyond tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs and press releases to achieve the very best public relations has to offer. And what makes it REALLY interesting is combining a sound public relations strategy supported by effective communications tactics leading directly to the bottom line – perception altered, behavior modified, employer/client/member objective achieved. end Bob Kelly counsels and writes for business, non-profit, public entity and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has authored over 250 articles on the subject which are listed at EzineArticles.com, click Expert Author, click Robert A. Kelly. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, 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. mailto:bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:www.PRCommentary.com

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Bob Kelly counsels and writes for business, non-profit, government agency and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has published 245 articles on the subject which are listed at EzineArticles.com, click ExpertAuthor, click Robert A. Kelly. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, U.S. Department of the Interior...

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