How to Get Your Public Relations Moneys Worth

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How To Get Your Public Relations Money’s Worth

Regardless of what business we’re in, we all want the

value – let’s call it “money’s worth” -- we paid for up-front

at the beginning of any program we undertake. Like, for

instance, the money’s worth implicit in the underlying premise

of public relations. Namely, people act on their own perception

of the facts before them, leading to behaviors about which

something can be done. When public relations creates,

changes or reinforces that opinion by reaching, persuading and

moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors affect

the organization, the public relations mission is usually

accomplished and your money’s worth received.

What that suggests, of course, is that you keep your eye

on a project’s end game to make CERTAIN you get the planned

behavior modification you agreed to back when the activity got


How can we be more successful in life than achieving

the goal we set at the beginning of ANY effort? We can’t! It’s

pure success and, in public relations, a sure way of getting your

money’s worth.

Why do I feel so strongly about the fundamental premise

of public relations? Because some of us have learned from

leaders in the field, from mentors and from long years of

experience that there are only three ways a public relations effort

can impact behavior: create opinion where it doesn't exist,

reinforce existing opinion or change that opinion.

No surprise that the process by which those strategies are

realized is known as public relations. Thus, while behavior is the

goal, and a host of communications tactics are the tools, our

strategy is the leverage provided by public opinion.

Which means the first money’s worth is the fundamental

value that alters target audience perceptions and, thus,

behaviors and helps you get where you want to be.

Next is tactical money’s worth. Carefully selected

communications tactics are the work horses of public relations.

They are effective communications carriers designed to reach

target audiences containing specially tailored, persuasive

messages aimed at influencing target audience perception and,

thus, behavior.

The list of available communications tactics is long,

flexible and richly diverse. It offers us effective message

carriers ranging from media publicity, special events,

sponsorships and financial communications to public speeches,

awards programs, brochures, annual reports, the worldwide

Internet and many, many more.

In the process, the employer/client receives yet another,

essential money’s worth when public relations gains and

holds the understanding and acceptance of those target

audiences, those publics, without which his or her organization

cannot prosper.

At the same time, you get reputational value because,

during the problem solving process, the organization’s

reputation is or should be burnished.

And that delivers enormous value to any organization

because it strengthens its ability to pursue successfully its

goals and objectives. And this, in turn, allows it to meet its

obligations to society as a good corporate, association or

501-c-3 citizen.

There’s still more money’s worth to come – now you

get measurement value. In other words, gathering evidence for

those paying the bill that the communications tactics have

actually changed behaviors.

You should look for signs of measured success via

Internet chatter, in print and broadcast news coverage, reports

from the field, letters-to-the-editor, consumer and customer

reactions, shareholder letters, comments from community

leaders and other feedback.

Even more specific, you’re not going to get your public

relations money’s worth if you fail to deal with what I call

unattended perceptions among those audiences most important

to achieving your objectives.

What would you do if your information gathering

showed potentially damaging, yet unattended perceptions out

there among target audiences vitally important to your


Fact is, to get your public relations money’s worth,

perceptions among your most important audiences MUST

be monitored regularly and, to the extent possible, their

concerns reconciled with both the interests of your own

organizations and, of course, the public interest and the law

of the land.

Fortunately, in the crucible of battle, an action pathway

begins to emerge allowing us to track how each key audience

perceives our organization, particularly watching for any abrupt

changes in perception. Let’s call that a tracking mechanism

that identifies the problem.

Now we can set the public relations goal. For example,

take immediate action to correct the perception and behavior

imbalance, and do so as soon as possible.

Next, we need a public relations strategy to meet that

goal and deal with any imbalance. We have only three

choices: create opinion where there isn’t any, change existing

opinion, or reinforce it. Here, we try to establish clearly what

degree of behavior modification we expect to achieve because

that’s how we’ll know to what extent we have succeeded.

Then, we carefully prioritize our target audiences

starting, for example, with customers, prospects and employees,

minority relations and regulatory agencies.

At this point, we prepare persuasive messages designed

to change any negative perceptions we discovered. Following

which we select those effective communications tactics to

carry those persuasive messages to our target audiences.

At last we come to the end game – did we meet the

behavior modification goal we established up front? If we did,

our public relations program is successful. If we didn’t, we

must re-evaluate our goal, strategy, messages, communications

tactics and our audience perception data gathering methods,

and adjust them for the next effort.

The best part is this: when the behavioral changes

become apparent, and meet the program’s original behavior

modification goal, three satisfying values are realized: One,

the public relations program IS a success.

Two, by achieving the behavioral goal you set at the

beginning, you are using a dependable and accurate public

relations performance measurement. And three, when the

“reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action” efforts

produce a visible modification in the behaviors of those

people you wish to influence, you are using public relations’

core value to its very best advantage insuring that you really

do receive your public relations money’s worth.


Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks about the fundamental

premise of public relations. He has authored 245 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. Kelly holds a bachelor of science

degree from Columbia University, major in public relations. Visit:


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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