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How Real PR Works
For some, public relations works well when their news release or special event winds up in the newspaper or on the radio.
For some, public relations works well when their news
release or special event winds up in the newspaper or on
For others, public relations works best when it does
something positive about the behaviors of outside
audiences that affect their operations the most. I like this
approach because a business, non-profit or association
manager can use the fundamental premise of public
relations to deliver key stakeholder behavior change - the
kind that leads directly to achieving a manager's
What fundamental premise of public relations am I talking
about here, and how can you put it to good use persuading
those important outside folks to your way of thinking, then
move them to take actions that help your department,
division or subsidiary succeed?
"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."
A simple plan that gets everyone working towards the same
external audience behaviors insuring that your public relations
effort stays on track.
By the way, I'm talking about changes in behavior like welcome
bounces in showroom visits, community leaders beginning to
seek you out; membership applications on the rise, customers
starting to make repeat purchases; organizations proposing
strategic alliances and joint ventures; waves of prospects
starting to do business with you; new inquiries about strategic
alliances; politicians and legislators starting to view you as a
key member of the business, non-profit or association
communities; higher employee retention rates and even capital
givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way.
Meet with your PR team and take the time to list those outside
audiences of yours who behave in ways that help or hinder
you in achieving your objectives. Then prioritize them by
how badly they impact you, and start working with the target
audience that heads your list.
First challenge? You're not certain just how most members of
that key outside audience perceive your organization.
Because there's a good chance you can't afford professional
survey work, you and your PR colleagues (don't worry, they'll
be quite familiar with perception and behavior matters) must
monitor those perceptions yourself.
Ask members of that outside audience questions like
"Have you ever had contact with anyone from our
organization? Was it a satisfactory experience? Are you
familiar with our services or products?" Stay alert to
negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies,
and especially for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions,
inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors. Because
experience shows they usually lead to negative behaviors,
the objective is to correct any of the above you encounter.
Now, you're ready to select the specific perception to be
altered, and that becomes your public relations goal.
Of course a PR goal without a strategy to show you HOW to
reach it, is like a cheeseburger without the ketchup. That's
why you now pick one of three strategies designed to create
perception or opinion where there may be none, or change
existing perception, or reinforce it. The challenge here
(a small one) is to insure that the goal and its strategy match
each other. You wouldn't want to select "change existing
perception" when current perception is just right suggesting
a "reinforce" strategy.
Flexing your PR muscle, it's your writer's turn to prepare a
compelling message carefully designed to alter your key target
audience's perception, as called for by your public relations goal.
Remember that it may be advisable to blend in your corrective
message with a presentation, or a newsworthy announcement
of a new product, service or employee, which may lend more
credibility by not overemphasizing the correction.
Clarity is the watchword with regard to what perception
needs clarification or correction, and why. Your facts must
be truthful and your position must be logically explained and
believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that
target audience, and actually move perception in your direction.
In other words, your message must be compelling.
Now you select your communications tactics, the "beasts of
burden" you will harness to carry your persuasive new thoughts
to the attention of your outside target audience.
Your potential tactics list is ample, to say the least. It includes
letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases and speeches. Or, you
might select radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts,
facility tours or customer briefings. There are scores available
with the only selection requirement being that those you choose
have a record of reaching people just like your target audience
Before long, questions will be raised as to how much progress
is being made. By which time, you'll be hard at work
remonitoring target audience member perceptions. Using
questions similar to those used during your earlier monitoring
session, you will now look carefully for indications that audience
perceptions are beginning to move in the direction you have
By adding more communications tactics, increasing their
frequencies or fine tuning your message, you can always
move things along at a faster clip.
Leaving tactics to do what they do best, carry messages, what
should come first is an aggressive public relations plan like that
outlined above that targets key stakeholder behavior change
leading directly to achieving your department, division or
, 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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