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PR Essential to your Success
Whether you are a business, non-profit or association
manager, your success will depend, to a large degree,
on how well you positively impact the behaviors of
those outside audiences that most affect your operation.
You need to create external stakeholder behavior
change – the kind that leads directly to achieving your
And you do that by persuading those important outside
folks to your way of thinking, then moving them to take
actions that help your department, division or subsidiary
The road to that success is filled with potholes, but
you’ll hardly feel them if you have the right roadmap.
Like this one: 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 accomplished.
Where can such a blueprint take you? Maybe to more
qualified proposals for strategic alliances and joint
ventures; or to big givers looking at your 501-c-3;
or to interested specifying sources requesting more
information; newly qualified prospects showing interest;
a big jump in sales floor visits; more requests for
membership applications; repeat purchases reappearing;
political figures taking a closer look at your unit as a
key member of the business, non-profit or association
communities; not to mention new contacts from
As that business, non-profit or association manager,
there are two steps you should take asap. List those
outside audiences of yours whose behavior helps or
hinders you in reaching your objectives. Then note
how severe their impact is, and we’ll take a shot at the
target audience you show as number one.
Sad to say, you probably haven’t assembled the
information that tells you how most members of that
key outside audience view your organization. So,
presuming there is no sign of a large professional survey
budget in your shop, you and your colleagues will have
to handle the job of monitoring external audience
perception by asking the questions yourselves.
Interrogatives such as “Have you ever met anyone from
our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience?
What do you know about our services or products?”
Stay alert for negative statements, especially evasive or
hesitant replies. And be on the lookout for false
assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and
potentially damaging rumors. Any of those must be
corrected because we know they usually produce negative
Now you must decide which of these nasties is the most
dangerous at this moment and correct it before it really
starts to hurt. In other words, once you select the specific
perception to be altered, you have identified your public
But there’s always a “but.” In this case, a PR goal
without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like
pasta without the sauce. So, you get to select one of
three strategies especially useful for creating perception
or opinion where there may be none, changing existing
perception, or reinforcing it. But be careful that your
new goal and the new strategy compliment each other.
After all, you wouldn’t want to select “change existing
perception” when you have a good current perception
suggesting a “reinforce” strategy.
Now let’s talk about writing ability. This is where your
PR team must employ those writing skills and put
together a compelling message. One designed to alter
your key target audience’s perception, as called for by
your public relations goal.
To boost message credibility, combine your message
with a newsworthy announcement – or make it part of
a different presentation. Helps downplay the fact that
something is being corrected.
Message clarity is paramount here, i.e., what perception
needs clarification or correction and why? You must
be truthful and your language must be persuasive,
logical and believable. Experience tells us this is the
best way to hold the attention of members of that target
audience, and move perception in your direction.
Now let’s talk about the tools you will use to carry this
persuasive message to the attention of that external audience
(I call such tactics “beasts of burden”).
This should be the easiest part of your PR effort because
there is an endless selection of communications tactics
available such as group briefings, letters-to-the-editor,
brochures, press releases and personal contacts. Or
possibly, radio and newspaper interviews, speeches,
newsletters, and many others.
A word here. Be careful about the tactics you select.
Is there a clear record of how effectively they actually
reach people similar to those you call your target
At this point, you’ll want to anticipate queries about
progress by beginning your second perception
monitoring session among members of your target
audience. There is, however, a considerable difference
the second time around. Using questions similar to
those used during your earlier monitoring session, you
now will be alert for signs that audience perceptions are
beginning to move in your direction. Fortunately,
that means progress.
Yes, we are also lucky in the PR business that we can move
almost any program along at a faster rate by using
additional communications tactics, AND by increasing
Remember to keep your attention focused sharply on
the very groups of outside people – your key external
stakeholders -- who play such a major role in just how
successful a manager you will be.
And by all means, use a workable blueprint such as that
mentioned earlier. One that helps you persuade those
important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking,
then moves them to take actions that lead to the success
of your department, division or subsidiary.
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.