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.


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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