PR Details That Make the Difference

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PR Details That Make the Difference

Press releases, broadcast plugs and brochures aside,

the real public relations breakthrough for business,

non-profit, public entity and association managers

occurs when they plan for and create the kind of

external stakeholder behavior change that leads

directly to achieving their managerial objectives.

And doing so by persuading those key outside

folks to their way of thinking, then moving them to

take actions that allow their department, group,

division or subsidiary to succeed.

As the smoke of battle clears, what those managers

have is a sound public relations strategy combined

with effective communications tactics leading directly

to the bottom line – perception altered, behaviors

modified, employer/client satisfied.

That’s when managers like that realize they need a

public relations game plan if they are to get all their

team members and organizational colleagues working

towards the same external stakeholder behaviors.

While there are many such plans, there is one that can

keep a manager’s public relations effort “on message,”

and here it is: 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.

Of course, nothing succeeds like success so what a

manager might see when he or she approaches PR

this way might include: 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.

Your professional staff, as might be expected, will

prove to be vitally important. But, 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.

Your best investment may be taking 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.

By all means, go over the PR blueprint with staff, in

particular 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


Yes, you can always retain professional survey counsel

for the perception monitoring phases of your program.

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 data you collect, obviously, will call for you to

do something about the most

serious distortions you discovered during your key

audience perception monitoring. This new public

relations goal might call for straightening out that

dangerous misconception, or correcting that gross

inaccuracy, or stopping that potentially fatal rumor.

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 liver-stuffed ravioli. 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”


Because persuading an audience to your way of

thinking is no easy task, you must 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.

Decide jointly with your staff if your message’s

impact and persuasiveness measure up. Then 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.

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. This is because the credibility of the message

itself can actually depend on the perception of its

delivery method.

You and your PR people should plan another visit to

the field where you can gather data for a followup

perception monitoring session with members of

your external audience. You’ll need comparative data

to produce progress reports, and you’ll want to use

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.

There will be periods in which momentum slows, so

be prepared to accelerate matters with more

communications tactics and increased frequencies.

By this time, what you have done is move beyond

tactics like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs

and press releases to achieve the very best public

relations has to offer.

Better yet, by reducing your preoccupation with

communications tactics in favor of a high-impact public

relations plan, you insure that never again will you fail

to persuade those key outside folks to your way of

thinking, or move them to take actions that allow your

department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.


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, 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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