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In PR, You Pay When You Stray
Don’t let yourself be diverted by communications tactics
playtime. You know, straying from the main public relations
game plan by spending too much time juggling press releases
versus radio interviews, brochures versus op-eds or speeches
versus newspaper interviews.
Those “beasts of burden” will come in handy at the right time.
Right now, there are more important fish to fry.
The main public relations consideration must be
attracting the support of those external audiences whose
behaviors have the most effect on your enterprise. But you
must do it by first achieving the positive changes you need
in their perceptions and, thus, behaviors.
You get both using this strategic approach to public relations
which means your chances of achieving your organizational
objectives are clearly enhanced.
It all starts with the fundamental premise of public relations
“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 those
people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public
relations mission usually is accomplished.”
The core strength of those comments lies in the behavior
changes that can take place among your key, outside audiences.
When those changes occur – and the combined perceptions
of members of that important external “public” begin to move
in your direction – it can spell public relations success.
For instance, citing strong factual evidence, a spokesperson
manages to clearly convince activists gathering around a busy
downtown ticketing location that in NO way does the company
support the position they are alleging. They finally clear out
limiting the damage such a disruption could have caused and
saving the organization cold, hard cash.
What happened? The spokesperson managed to change the
perception of those activists which, predictably, led to the
desired change in their behavior. In other words, a successful
use of public relations’ fundamental premise.
While public relations can bring real power to bear, and while
there’s a well-worn path leading to each success, truth is, you
can’t change perceptions, and thus behaviors of your important
outside audiences if you are not in touch with them on a regular
and meaningful basis.
That’s why it’s so important to interact with members of each
target audience, and ask questions. What do you think of
our services, our programs, or our products? Are you satisfied?
Listen carefully for signs of a misconception or a factual
inaccuracy. Is there a belief alive out there that simply isn’t
true? Do you detect a hurtful rumor that must be dealt with?
The answers you receive let you establish your public relations
goal. For example, correct that inaccuracy, clear up that
misconception, or get out the facts in order to neutralize that
But how will you actually reach that goal? With a clear and
Fortunately, in dealing with perception/opinion, we have
just three options available to us. Create perception/opinion
where there is none, change existing perception, or reinforce it.
The goal you established will quickly tell you which strategy
choice you must make.
But, of course, what you say to that target audience, in pursuit
of your public relations goal, is crucial. Your message must be
persuasive, compelling and clear as a mountain stream. It also
must be credible and believable, which means truthful in all
detail. It should also address the particular inaccuracy,
misconception or rumor head on and not allow room for any
Now, how do you get that carefully chiseled message to the
attention of members of that key, target audience? I still call
them “beasts of burden” because they carry messages from
Point A to Point B. Communications tactics is the answer,
and you have a huge selection from which to choose.
Everything from open houses, contests, news releases and
speeches to brochures, community briefings, letters-to-the-
editor, emails, radio/TV and newspaper interviews, and
Sooner rather than later, you will wonder whether you’re
making any progress. And the only realistic way to nail that
down is to go back to members of that target audience again
and ask them the same questions all over again.
The big difference this time around is, you’re looking for signs
that opinion/perceptions have begun to change in your
direction. By that I mean clear indications that the miscon-
ception is clearing up, or the inaccuracy has been corrected,
or that a negative impression is slowly turning around.
Truth is, that’s when this strategic, and powerful approach to
public relations – supported by appropriate tactical firepower
– delivers the altered perceptions and modified behaviors
promised in the fundamental premise of public relations.
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 authored 245
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.