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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.