Public Relations Shock and Awe!

Public Relations Shock and Awe! You may be a business, non-profit, public entity or association manager who has always viewed public relations through a tactical lens (press releases, broadcast plugs, brochures, plant tours, etcetera). In which case, you might react with shock and awe at an approach to public relations that instead, combines a sound strategy with effective communications tactics leading directly to the bottom line – perception altered, behavior modified, employer/client satisfied. As you hopefully switch from a tactical approach to one that emphasizes a strategic plan to achieve your managerial objectives, you may be surprised to find yourself persuading your key outside audiences to your way of thinking, then moving them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed. The public relations approach you choose will decide the outcome of your program. I suggest these guidelines for your serious consideration: 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. The product of all that work could look like this. 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. Let’s talk about your PR people. 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. Spend 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. Another time investment occurs when you review with staff 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? Professional survey counsel will always be available for the perception monitoring phases of your program, if the budget can bear the cost. 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 final product of your Q&A will highlight the need to do something about the most serious distortions you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Of course this will identify your public relations goal and it might call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor. Close on the heels of goal-setting will always be strategy- setting. The simple reason is, 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 peanut butter croutons in your turtle soup. 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. At this point in the sequence, you’re going to have to 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. Now we buckle down and 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. Because the believeability of a message can actually depend on the perception of its delivery method, 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. To gather the comparative data you need to produce progress reports, you and your PR people should plan on going back to the field. You’ll end up using 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. Just in case things slow down, better be prepared to accelerate matters with more communications tactics and increased frequencies. Fact of the matter is, what you have done here is move beyond tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs and press releases to achieve the very best public relations has to offer – perception altered, behavior modified, employer/client satisfied. end Bob Kelly counsels and writes for business, non-profit, public entity and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has authored over 250 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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