Many business, non-profit, government agency and
association managers, like the rest of us, want to kick
our bad business habits and start the year 2006 anew.
And for many managers, public relations may be a good
place to prepare such a 2006 New Year?s Resolution.
For example, it?s hard to ignore the fact that many
business, non-profit, government agency and association
managers harbor a single-minded preoccupation with
simple communications tactics like press releases,
broadcast plugs, special events and brochures, which
denies them the best that public relations has to offer.
Instead, in 2006, they might resolve to use a strategic
PR plan that alters the individual perception of members
of a manager?s MOST important outside audiences. This
starts the process of changing their behaviors by actually
persuading many of those key, outside folks to a manager?s
way of thinking. Then, he/she helps move audience
members to take actions that allow that manager?s
department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.
If what I?m about to say sounds like theory, it isn?t. It?s
both reality AND the underlying premise 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 is usually accomplished.
Resolution-making managers will be pleased to note that
the right public relations planning really CAN alter
individual perception and lead to changed behaviors
among key outside audiences. It?s equally encouraging
when you remember that your PR effort must demand
more than special events, news releases and talk show
tactics if you are to receive the quality public relations
results you believe you deserve.
What results, you say? Try these: community leaders
begin to seek you out; welcome bounces in show
room visits; customers begin to make repeat purchases;
new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures
showing up; capital givers or specifying sources begin
to look your way; membership applications start to
rise; politicians and legislators begin looking at you
as a key member of the business, non-profit or
association communities; and prospects actually start
to do business with you.
Of course, as the manager in charge of all your direct
reports, you have a ready-made support staff on the PR
side. The public relations people assigned to you can
be of real use for your new opinion monitoring project
because they are already in the perception and behavior
business. But double check that your PR folks really
accept why it?s SO important to know how your most
important outside audiences perceive your operations,
products or services. In brief, be sure they believe
that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that
can help or hurt your operation.
It?s also essential that your PR staff buy into the need
to monitor and gather perceptions by questioning
members of your most important outside audiences.
Ask 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? Are
you familiar with our services or products and
employees? Have you experienced problems with our
people or procedures?
If your budget will allow, a survey firm can do the
opinion gathering work, but the cost can be heavy.
Alternatively, you can use those PR folks of yours
in that monitoring capacity. But whether it?s your
people or a survey firm asking the questions, the
objective remains the same: identify untruths, false
assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies,
misconceptions and any other negative perception
that might translate into hurtful behaviors.
One of the most important steps in establishing your
new strategic public relations plan is setting a PR goal
drawn from the most serious problem areas you
uncovered during your key audience perception
monitoring. Will you correct that gross inaccuracy?
stop that potentially painful rumor dead? Or straighten
out that dangerous misconception?
The right strategy will show you the way to that PR
goal. But just three strategic options are available to
you when it comes to solving perception and opinion
problems. Change existing perception, create perception
where there may be none, or reinforce it. The wrong
strategy pick will taste like marshmallows on your pot
roast. So be certain your new strategy fits well with your
new public relations goal. You certainly don?t want to
select ?change? when the facts dictate a strategy of
In public relations, you?re never far from the need to
write something. And that?s true here. Your staff must
prepare a persuasive message that will help move your key
audience to your way of thinking. It must be a carefully-
written message aimed directly at your key external
audience. Select your very best writer because s/he must
come up with language that is not merely compelling,
persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are
to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view
and lead to the behaviors you have in mind.
Moving your new message to your target audience requires
selecting those communications tactics most likely to carry
your message to the attention of those folks. And many of
them await your pleasure. From speeches, facility tours,
emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media
interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others.
But be certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach
people just like your audience members.
Now, communicating your message can be a problem
because the credibility of any message is always fragile.
And that?s why, at first, you may wish to unveil your
corrective message before smaller meetings and
presentations rather than using higher-profile news
When progress reports are contemplated, your first
thought should lead you to begin a second perception
monitoring session among members of your external
audience in order to measure headway. You can use
many of the same questions used in your benchmark
session. But this time, you will be on guard for signs
that the bad news perception is being altered in your
Any program can lose momentum, but you have two
options for speeding up the action: add more
communications tactics and increase their frequencies.
This manager?s 2006 New Year?s Resolution can put
your public relations program back on track. Especially
when it moves you away from a major emphasis on
communications tactics and on to a plan for doing
something positive about the behaviors of those
important external audiences of yours that most affect
your operation. And particularly so when you persuade
those key outside folks to your way of thinking by
helping to move them to take actions that allow your
department, division or subsidiary to succeed.
Please feel free to publish this article and resource box
in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website.
A copy would be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net.
Word count is 1260 including guidelines and resource box.
Robert A. Kelly © 2006.