The Biggest PR Speed Bump of All

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 1360 including guidelines and box. Robert A. Kelly © 2006. The Biggest PR Speed Bump of All A single issue – for example, a potentially dangerous, unattended perception among a key outside audience – can spread like wildfire nudging ANY business, non-profit, public entity or association closer to failure than success. Remember, it’s what people BELIEVE to be true – rather than the truth itself – that too often defines the public relations challenge. Why the top of the head actually hurts just thinking about a public relations speed bump like that! It also cries out for a sound public relations strategy combined with effective communications tactics leading directly to the bottom line – perception altered, behaviors modified, employer/client satisfied. But how do we get there? By employing public relations activity that creates first perception, then behavior change within that key outside audience. And I mean behavior change that leads directly to achieving managerial objectives. It’s not easy, but as a manager, you can do it if you accept the fact that the right PR really CAN alter individual perception and lead to those changed behaviors you need. Especially if you follow up by doing something positive about the behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation. You can take your best shot at it by creating the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives. But only when you persuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking, and then move them to take actions that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed. You’ll be glad to know that this approach comes complete with a blueprint showing you how to manage this kind of public relations. 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 usually is usually accomplished. Here’s a reality that will come crashing in on you as you start work on this project. Obviously, you will need a lot more than news releases, brochures, broadcast plugs and fun-filled special events to get a satisfactory return on your PR investment. Among the results business, non- profit, public entity and association managers can expect are renewed interest from your key external audiences, new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; membership applications on the rise; new community service and sponsorship opportunities; and even new thoughtleader and special event contacts. With the passage of time, you will notice such customers making repeat purchases; prospects reappearing; stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial and healthcare communities; improved relations with government agencies and legislative bodies, and perhaps even capital givers or specifying sources looking your way. Be sure that your PR staff is really on board for the whole effort because you want your key outside audiences to really perceive your operations, products or services in a positive light. Reassure yourself that your people accept the basic truth that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your unit. Take the time from your busy day to go over the plan, the blueprint in detail with your staff, especially regarding how you will gather and monitor perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions like these: 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 how things went? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures? Fortunately, your PR people are also in the perception and behavior business and can pursue the same objective as the professional survey firms might were they to handle the perception monitoring phases of your program: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors. Setting your public relations goal in concrete carries with it the responsibility to address the problems that appeared during your key audience perception monitoring. Probably, your new goal will call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something about that awful rumor. But this raises a knotty question: how do you plan to reach that goal? You have just three strategic choices when it comes to dealing with a perception or opinion challenge: create perception where there may be none, change the perception, or reinforce it. Unfortunately, selecting a bad strategy will taste like gooseberry preserves on your salt cod. 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. We’re all painfully aware that how you structure your corrective message is crucial because persuading an audience to your way of thinking is awfully hard work. Particularly so when you’re looking for words that are compelling, persuasive, believable AND clear and factual. Hard work, but a must if you are to correct a perception by shifting opinion towards your point of view, leading to the desired behaviors. Review your message with your communications specialists for its impact and persuasiveness. You can pick from dozens of available tactics to carry your words to the attention of your target audience, but you need to select the precise communications tactics most likely to reach them. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. Be darn certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members. Another PR fact of life is that the credibility of your message can depend on how you deliver it. So, try introducing it to smaller gatherings rather than using higher-profile communications such as news releases or talk show appearances. Before long, you’ll need to produce a progress report, which means it’s probably time for you and your PR folks to get back out in the field for a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You can use the same questions used in the first benchmark session, but now you must stay alert for signs that your communications tactics have worked and that the negative perception is being altered in your direction. I know that things don’t always move fast enough for me, and I suspect the same may be true of you. If you’re caught in a slowdown, matters can always be accelerated with a broader selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies. So that biggest PR speed bump of all – a potentially dangerous, unattended perception among a key external audience – really CAN spread like wild fire and nudge any business, non-profit, public entity or association closer to failure than success. Only thing standing between you and such a disaster is your own resolve as a manager to do something positive about the behaviors of those important outside audiences of yours that MOST affect your operation. Create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your managerial objectives. And do so by persuading those key outside folks to your way of thinking, by moving 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 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. mailto:bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:www.PRCommentary.com

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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 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...

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