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Managers, please take a minute and read two sentences: 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.
Properly executed, this comprehensive blueprint will help you persuade your key external stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to your unit's success.
And, as you move the emphasis of the public relations crew assigned to your operation from communications tactics to the model outlined above, YOU move ever closer to personal success as a unit manager.
Here's why. The blueprint 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.
Like most managerial initiatives you implement, your new public relations blueprint also will require aggressive execution.
But, how do we KNOW the blueprint works? In three ways:
1) Goal achievement
2) Follow the big boys
3) Problem-solving muscle
Goal achievement -- Because the blueprint requires that a public relations goal be established, the first way we know the blueprint works is when you achieve that goal. That's just pure success when you end up nailing the objective you planned for up front.
Follow the big boys -- watch the performance of big business, non-profit and association operators. Over time, large organizations become aware of those outside audiences whose behaviors affect it the most because those stakeholder behaviors can and do cause pain. In due course, a list of these "publics" is created of special interest to the public relations department and its agencies.
Because some behaviors hurt more than others, the big boys often assign key stakeholder audience rankings. This prioritizes them as to impact, highlighting which target audiences require special attention and a hefty chunk of the public relations budget.
Unlike smaller entities, big organizations benefit from extensive early-warning networks in the form of field representatives, suppliers, customers of all sizes, various vendors, local, regional and national print and broadcast media who cover their activities, university contacts, retirees, sales representatives and residents of towns where its facilities operate.
Such networks provide much of the perception monitoring needed to discover and track how the organization's key target audiences perceive it. In many cases, larger organizations retain professional survey counsel to gather these data, while others utilize staff public relations expertise in perception and behavior matters.
Many larger organizations waste little time applying corrective action to serious perception problems because they know how they can morph into troublesome behaviors. The public relations goal usually reflects the most negative perceptions discovered either during the opinion monitoring phase or from input gleaned from members of the organization's diverse network. For example, a new goal such as clarifying a dangerous misconception, correcting an unfortunate inaccuracy or spiking a potentially hurtful rumor.
Time-honored strategies are applied to achieve the new PR goal - change existing perception, create perception where there isn't any, or reinforce it. And this is followed by preparation of a persuasive, compelling and believable message designed to alter perception of that key target audience in the organization's direction.
Big operators tend to be strongest (and financially able) in marshalling a variety of high-impact communications tactics to carry the corrective message to the eyes and ears of members of the key target audience. Everything from emails, media interviews and newsletters to speeches, brochures, consumer meetings and facility tours.
Finally, leaving little to chance, many large organizations go back to the field to measure perception change among members of their key target audience in order to track how their public relations activity has actually moved perception of that key target audience in the desired direction.
In this way, the success of a large organization PR effort easily can be gauged.
3) Problem-solving muscle - here's how the public relations blueprint can actually work for you, step by step, as a department, division or subsidiary manager.
You and the public relations people assigned to your business, non-profit or association unit, sit down and list and prioritize your most important outside audiences.
You and your team interact with members of the key target audience and ask a lot of questions about how they perceive your operation. Watch for negatives.
You gather the data and use them to set your public relations goal - i.e., correct that inaccuracy, clarify that misconception, fix that false assumption.
Then you select one of three available strategies that will show you how to reach that goal: create perception where there may be none, change existing perception, or reinforce it.
Now you and your PR team prepare a persuasive, compelling, factual and believable message designed to alter the most hurtful perceptions among members of your key target audience.
Here, you select from among dozens of communications tactics that will carry your message to the eyes and ears of your target audience. Everything from media interviews, personal meetings and emails to speeches, brochures and newsletters. You may even speed things up by adding more communications tactics, and by increasing certain key tactic frequencies.
To nail down results, you and your PR team again monitor the perceptions of key target audience members, again asking questions, but this time watching carefully for signs that the negatives you discovered are actually being altered. And most important, that your target audience perception is moving in your direction.
You'll know your public relations effort is a winner when you successfully apply your business, non-profit or association resources to persuading your key external stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move 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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