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PR’s Big Bang Theory
Lots of theories out there about public relations.
Everything from “publicity’s the thing!,” “the care and
feeding of reputations and “sales support is primary” to
“gain and hold public acceptance,” and “issue management’s
the thing.” among many, many others.
But for business, non-profit and association managers, the
big, bang theory of public relations trumps them all when
it alters individual perception leading to changed behaviors
among their key outside audiences, thus helping them
achieve their managerial objectives.
As a manager, you can do exactly the same by doing
something positive about the behaviors of those important
external audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation.
In particular when you persuade those key outside folks to
your way of thinking, then help move them to take actions
that allow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
If there’s a secret behind such “big bang” performance, it
probably goes this way: 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
A grab-bag of results can occur. The payoff can make your
day: fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;
customers starting to make repeat purchases; membership
applications on the rise; community leaders beginning to seek
you out; welcome bounces in show room visits; prospects
starting to do business with you; higher employee retention
rates, capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look
your way, and even politicians and legislators starting to view
you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association
But you’ll need more then zippy special events, slick brochures
and punchy press releases if you really want to get the PR you
At the same time, as you no doubt realize, a key plank in your
PR platform requires that your most important outside audiences
really perceive your operations, products or services in a positive
light. This is so vital that your PR people must buy into the
effort from the get-go. Be especially careful that they accept
the reality that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors
that can help or hurt your unit.
How you will gather and monitor opinion by questioning
members of your most important outside audiences will be
of interest to everyone on the team. So take the time to review
the PR blueprint in detail with your staff. Discuss questions
that will be asked: How much do you know about our
organization? How much do you know about our services
or products and employees? Have you had prior contact
with us and were you pleased with the interchange? Have
you experienced problems with our people or procedures?
Professional survey people can always gather opinion data
for the perception monitoring phases of your program, IF the
budget is available. But always 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
We must say a few words about your all-important public
relations goal. It must speak to the problems that cropped up
during your key audience perception monitoring. Probably,
it will require correcting that gross inaccuracy, straightening
out that dangerous misconception, or doing something about
that damaging rumor.
Because any goal must have a strategy to show you how to
get where you want to go, you get to pick from just three strategic
choices available to handle a perception or opinion challenge:
create perception where there may be none, change the
perception, or reinforce it. By the way, the wrong strategy pick
will taste like onion gravy on your sea scallops, so be certain
the new strategy fits well with your new public relations goal.
For example, you don’t want to select “change” when the facts
dictate a “reinforce” strategy.
To persuade an audience to your way of thinking, you need
words that are compelling, persuasive and believable, as well
as clear and factual. In other words, the right, corrective
phrases. This must be done if you are to correct a perception by
shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors.
And to carry your words to the attention of your target audiences,
you need communications tactics likely to reach them. First sit
down again with your communications specialists and read your
message for impact and persuasiveness. Then select from dozens
of available tactics such as speeches, facility tours, emails,
brochures, consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters,
personal meetings and many others. But again, be certain that the
tactics you use are known to reach folks just like your audience
Because the credibility of any message can be called into question
because of its delivery method, think about introducing it to smaller
gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications such
as news releases or talk-show appearances.
At the first mention of progress reports, think of it as your
reminder that the PR team should return to the field for a second
perception monitoring session with members of your external
audience. Asking many of the same questions used in the first
benchmark session, you’ll now be alert for signs that your
communications tactics have worked and that the negative
perception is being altered in your direction.
When things seem to be dragging, and you decide to move
things along a little faster, do so by accelerating your PR
program with a wider selection of communications
tactics AND increased frequencies.
The public relations big bang theory has at its core, the
behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours
that most affect your operation. Namely, the creation of
external stakeholder behavior change leading directly to
achieving your managerial objectives.
And the fastest way to accomplish that is to persuade those
key outside folks to your way of thinking, thus moving them
to take actions that allow your business, non-profit or
association to succeed.
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 written 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, and deputy assistant press secretary,
The White House. He holds a bachelor of science degree from
Columbia University, major in public relations.