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Managers, Have You Been Shortchanged?
By Robert A. Kelly

Take control of the PR folks assigned to your unit and insure that every last one of them understands why it's so crucial to know how your operation is perceived by your key target audiences.

You have been if you're a business, non-profit or association manager whose public relations budget is focused largely on nifty brochures, column mentions and broadcast plugs. Especially without a workable plan that helps you persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that lead to the success of your department, division or subsidiary.

A plan, say, like this one: 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 accomplished.

Managers like yourself can win big when you base your public relations planning on this kind of blueprint, one that demands of you a sharper focus on the very groups of outside people who play a major role in just how successful a manager you will be - your key external audiences.

The payoff can take many forms: repeat purchases, a big bounce in showroom visits, increases in capital gifts, new waves of prospects, a large boost in membership applications, and even new inquiries about strategic alliances or joint ventures.

More important, as you move the emphasis of the public relations people assigned to your unit from communications tactics to the blueprint outlined above, YOU move closer to personal success as that unit manager.

Take control of the PR folks assigned to your unit and insure that every last one of them understands why it's so crucial to know how your operation is perceived by your key target audiences. Be certain that they accept the reality that those perceptions almost always end up as predictable behaviors that, left unattended, can raise cane with your operation.

Discuss how your PR team will undertake a perception monitoring session and question members of your key target audience: have you had prior contact with us? Was it satisfactory? How much do you know about our services or products and people? Have you encountered problems with our organization?

While you can always hire survey specialists to round up these data for you, remember that your very own PR team is already in the perception and behavior game and should be of use for this project.

No matter who handles the perception monitoring drill with members of your target audience, you/they must remain alert for false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and untruths.

The reason for this caution is that the perception information you gather helps you establish your public relations goal. Examples might include, spike that rumor, correct the false assumption, or clarify the misconception.

But how do you go about achieving that goal? You pick the right strategy from the three choices available to you. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Be certain, however, that the strategy you choose is an obvious fit with your new public relations goal.

Now, what will you say to members of your key target audience to help persuade those with the offending perception to your way of thinking? Select your PR team's best writer because you must prepare a very special, corrective message. One that is not only compelling and believable, but very clear, based on solid facts and persuasive if it is to shift perception/opinion towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you have in mind.

The next step, luckily, is easy. You must select communications tactics to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Insuring that the tactics you select have a record of reaching folks like the members of your target audience, you can pick from dozens that are available to you. From consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters and personal meetings to speeches, facility tours, emails, brochures and many others.

Keeping in mind that the method of communication can often affect the credibility of the message, you may wish to deliver it during a meeting, a presentation or other small getogethers rather than in a higher-profile press release.

Soon, you will want to demonstrate that your new public relations effort is making progress. And that means a second perception monitoring session with members of your target audience. Using many of the same questions as in your first benchmark session, you will now be on alert for signs that the offending perception is being altered in your direction.

Fortunately, you can always move things along by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

You will not be shortchanged - nor feel shortchanged - when you sharpen your focus on the very groups of outside people who play a major role in just how successful a manager you will be - your key external stakeholders.

Especially when you use a workable plan that helps you persuade those important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that lead to the success of your department, division or subsidiary.



Bob Kelly, a public relations consultant, was director of public relations for Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-Public Relations, Texaco Inc.; VP-Public Relations, Olin Corp.;VP-Public Relations, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press secretary, The White House. Contact Bob Kelly by email at bobkelly@TNI.net

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