PR Details That Make the Difference

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 1220 including guidelines and box. Robert A. Kelly © 2006. PR Details That Make the Difference Press releases, broadcast plugs and brochures aside, the real public relations breakthrough for business, non-profit, public entity and association managers occurs when they plan for and create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving their managerial objectives. And doing so by persuading those key outside folks to their way of thinking, then moving them to take actions that allow their department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed. As the smoke of battle clears, what those managers have is a sound public relations strategy combined with effective communications tactics leading directly to the bottom line – perception altered, behaviors modified, employer/client satisfied. That’s when managers like that realize they need a public relations game plan if they are to get all their team members and organizational colleagues working towards the same external stakeholder behaviors. While there are many such plans, there is one that can keep a manager’s public relations effort “on message,” and here it is: 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. Of course, nothing succeeds like success so what a manager might see when he or she approaches PR this way might include: improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies; a rebound in showroom visits; membership applications on the rise; new thoughtleader and special event contacts; capital givers or specifying sources looking your way; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; fresh community service and sponsorship opportunities; prospects starting to work with you; customers making repeat purchases; and even stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities. Your professional staff, as might be expected, will prove to be vitally important. But, will you use your regular public relations staff? People assigned to you from above ? Or will it be PR agency staff? Nevertheless, they must be committed to you as the senior project manager, and to the PR blueprint starting with key audience perception monitoring. Your best investment may be taking as much time as needed 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. By all means, go over 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? Yes, you can always retain professional survey counsel for the perception monitoring phases of your program. But remember 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 data you collect, obviously, will call for you to do something about the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. This new public relations goal might call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor. If you are to be successful, you’re going to need a solid strategy backing up that new goal. A strategy that clearly indicates to you and the PR staff how to proceed. But do keep in mind 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. It goes without saying that you don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a reinforce” strategy. Because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is no easy task, you must prepare a powerful corrective message to be aimed at members of your target audience.Your PR folks 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. Decide jointly with your staff if your message’s impact and persuasiveness measure up. Then 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. But be sure that those you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members. You may decide to kick off the corrective message by unveiling the message before smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile tactics such as news releases. This is because the credibility of the message itself can actually depend on the perception of its delivery method. You and your PR people should plan another visit to the field where you can gather data for a followup perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You’ll need comparative data to produce progress reports, and you’ll want to use many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session. Only this time, you will be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction. There will be periods in which momentum slows, so be prepared to accelerate matters with more communications tactics and increased frequencies. By this time, what you have done is move beyond tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs and press releases to achieve the very best public relations has to offer. Better yet, by reducing your preoccupation with communications tactics in favor of a high-impact public relations plan, you insure that never again will you fail to persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, or move them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed. end Bob Kelly counsels and writes for 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, 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.


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, 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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