Sunday, December 17, 2006

Managers Who Spend PR $$ Wisely

Author: Robert A. Kelly

Managers Who Spend PR $$ Wisely

If you are a department, division or subsidiary manager, your budget is a precious possession whether you work for a business, a non-profit or an association. So why stand by while your public relations team spends too much time and treasure on tactics like press releases, column mentions and brochures? Especially when you could be using an aggressive PR blueprint to persuade your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to your success?

The good news is, that aggressive blueprint shines the PR spotlight directly on those outside groups of people who have a large say in how successful you’re going to be – namely, on your key external target audiences. It reads this way: 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.

Look at the kinds of behaviors that are possible using such a blueprint. A big jump up in capital contributions, increased membership queries, new prospects showing up, more current buying and even repeat purchases occurring, and even new proposals for joint ventures.

Spending your PR $$ wisely implies that you are getting serious about your public relations by changing the emphasis from communications tactics to a workable plan for reaching those outside groups of people with a large say about how successful you will be. I refer, of course, to those key external target audiences of yours.

What do they think of you, anyway? Ask your PR staff why they believe that’s important to you? Hopefully, they’ll agree that target audience perceptions usually do lead to behaviors that can help or hinder you in achieving your operating objectives. In other words, is your PR team guided by solid fundamentals rather than mechanics like special events and communications tactics?

Next, decide together, then prioritize exactly which external audiences have the most impact on your operation, and let’s do some work on the audience at the top of that list.

Since you must monitor perceptions by interacting with members of that audience, you can elect to join your PR folks as they ask some penetrating questions: “Do you know anything about us? How do you feel about our services and/or products? Have you had any contact with our people? Did it work out to your satisfaction?”

Remember that you can also employ a professional survey firm to interact with members of your target audience. Only drawback here is the considerable cost involved in taking this route versus using your own PR folks who, as we know, are already in the perception and behavior business.

Either way, while the perception monitoring effort is proceeding, all questioners must stay alert to misconceptions about your unit, as well as inaccuracies, exaggerations, rumors or false assumptions. And keep an eye out for evasive and hesitant responses to your queries.

Once all the answers are in-hand, you’re ready to establish your public relations goal, thus fixing what needs correcting the most. And that may well be to clear up a potentially damaging misconception, shoot down a hurtful rumor, or clarify that misleading exaggeration.

Now, how do you reach that new goal? The right strategy is what you need and that means one of these: create perception where there may be none at all, change that offensive opinion/perception, or reinforce an existing perception. But make sure the strategy you pick fits naturally with your PR goal.

You still need a message that will correct/alter the negative perception turned up during your monitoring activity among members of your target audience. It must be a compelling message, one that is completely believable and one that explains why the offending perception is either untrue or unfair. The message must be clearly presented because you want to alter what people believe in a way that leads to the target audience behaviors you need to achieve your unit objectives.

Fortunately, delivering the message to those who need to hear it and read it is a simple matter. You have a real variety of communications tactics to help you from speeches, luncheon presentations, media interviews and emails to newsletters, facility tours, brochures and electronic magazines. Just be certain the tactics you use have a good record of reaching people similar to those who make up your target audience. So as not to call too much attention to the original misperception, your PR team may wish to deliver the corrective message as part of various presentations to target audience members rather than risk a high profile, news release transmission.

Now, to demonstrate program progress, you and your team must once again monitor perceptions among your target audience watching carefully for indications that your message and tactics have moved those perceptions towards your views.

Of course, to speed up the process, you can always add new communications tactics to the mix and increase their frequencies.

Finally, at this point you should be reassured that your new public relations effort has (1) persuaded your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, (2) moved them to take actions leading to your success, thus (3) helping achieve your department, division or subsidiary objectives.

end

About the author: Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks to managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. 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. mailto:bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.prcommentary.com

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