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PR’s Only True Measure
Sure, you could measure the rather narrow results
achieved by tactical subsets of your public relations
program like special events, brochures, broadcast
plugs or press releases. On the other hand, you as
a business, non-profit or association manager might
better measure the results of your strategic efforts to
alter individual perception among your key outside
audiences leading to changed behaviors, which then
help you achieve your managerial objectives.
I mean, can we agree that managers MUST plan to
do something positive about the behaviors of those
important external audiences of theirs that most affect
And especially so when they persuade those key outside
folks to their way of thinking by helping to move them
to take actions that allow their department, division or
subsidiary to succeed?
But it takes more than good intentions for any manager
to alter individual, key-audience perception leading to
changed behaviors, something of profound importance
to ALL business, non-profit and association managers.
He or she needs a plan dedicated to getting every member
of the public relations team working towards the same
external audience behaviors which insures that the
organization’s public relations effort stays sharply focused.
The plan could be based on a foundation that looks like
this: 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
Results can materialize faster than you might suspect.
For example, bounces in showroom visits; new proposals
for strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making
repeat purchases; prospects starting to work with them;
membership applications on the rise, and capital givers or
specifying sources looking their way.
Watch the real performers at work. They find out who
among their key external audiences is behaving in ways
that help or hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then,
they list them according to how severely their behaviors
affect their organization.
Next they must determine how most members of that key
outside audience perceive the organization. If the resources
to pay for what could be costly professional survey counsel
aren’t there, Ms. or Mr. manager and his or her PR colleagues
will have to monitor those perceptions themselves. Actually,
the PR folks should already be quite familiar with how to
gather and assess perception and behavior data.
Doing so means meeting with members of that outside
audience and asking questions like “Are you familiar with
our services or products?” “Have you ever had contact
with anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory
experience?” And if you are that manager, you must be
sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive or
hesitant replies. Watch carefully for false assumptions,
untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially
damaging rumors. When you find such, you will need to
take steps to correct them, as they inevitably lead to
Now comes the challenge of selecting the specific
perception to be altered which then becomes your public
relations goal. You obviously want to correct those
untruths, inaccuracies, misconceptions or false
The core reality of the whole drill is that a PR goal
without a strategy to show you how to get there, is like
corned beef and cabbage without the cabbage. It’s just
not the same. So, as you select one of three strategies
(especially constructed to create perception or opinion
where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,)
what you must do is insure that the goal and its strategy
match each other. You wouldn’t want to select “change
existing perception” when current perception is just right
suggesting a “reinforce” strategy.
Now the time has come when you must create a compelling
message carefully constructed to alter your key target
audience’s perception, as specified by your public relations
Remember that you can always combine your corrective
message with another news announcement or presentation
which may give it more credibility by downplaying the
apparent need for such a correction.
The content of the message must be compelling and quite
clear about what perception needs clarification or correction,
and why. Naturally you must be truthful and your position
logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention
of members of that target audience, and actually move
perception in your direction.
Occasionally, folks in the PR business will allude to the
communications tactics necessary to move your message
to the attention of that key external audience, as “beasts
of burden” because they must carry your persuasive new
thoughts to the eyes and ears of those important outside
Luckily, there is a wide choice because the list of tactics
is lengthy. It includes letters-to-the-editor, brochures,
press releases and speeches. Or, you might choose radio
and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours
or customer briefings. There are scores available and the
only selection requirement is that the communications
tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just
like the members of your key target audience.
Of course, you can always move things along by adding
more communications tactics, AND by increasing their
Right about now, the subject of progress reports will arise,
but you will already be hard at work remonitoring
perceptions among your target audience members to test
the effectiveness of your communications tactics. Using
questions similar to those used during your earlier
monitoring session, you’ll now be on sharp alert for signs
that audience perceptions are beginning to move in your
Throughout, keep your eye on the core of this approach:
persuade your most important outside audiences with the
greatest impacts on your organization to your way of
thinking. Then move them to take actions that help your
department, division or subsidiary prevail.
Thus, instead of measuring the rather narrow results
achieved by the tactical subsets of your public relations
program like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs
or press releases, you will have discovered the only true
measure of public relations: the results of your strategic
efforts to alter individual perception among your key
outside audiences leading to changed behaviors, helping
you achieve your managerial objectives.
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 published 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.