Sunday, November 02, 2008

Managers: Are You PR-Fit?

Author: Robert A. Kelly

Managers: Are You PR-Fit?

Can you honestly say that your business, non-profit or association's key outside audiences behave in ways that help lead to your success on-the-job?

Or, have you pretty much ignored the reality that target audience behaviors can help or hinder you in achieving your department, division or subsidiary's operating objectives?

Truth is, your unit's public relations effort can never be truly fit until the primary focus of the PR people assigned to you is shifted from tactical concerns to a more comprehensive public relations action blueprint like this: 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.

What such a foundation gives you is the ability to help persuade those important external stakeholders to your way of thinking. Which can cause them to take actions that lead to your success as a manager.

Any idea how to make that happen?

First, tell your public relations team that you're serious about nailing down what those outside audiences with the behaviors that affect your unit the most, really think about your organization. After you list the external stakeholders, prioritize them so we're certain we're working on one of your key target audiences.

Next, you and your PR team must interact with members of that audience by asking a number of questions aimed at finding out how you're perceived. Look for inaccurate beliefs, troublesome misconceptions, potentially dangerous rumors, and any other negativities that might translate into target audience behaviors that could hurt you.

Of course, you could hire a professional survey firm to interact with members of your target audience and gather the perception data you need. But that can get expensive indicating, at least to me, that the alternative use of your own PR staff to handle this chore, is the better choice.

Question now, how to achieve that public relations goal? Obviously, you need the right strategy to show you how to do it. Luckily, where opinion/perception is concerned, there are really only three strategy choices: create perception/opinion where none exists, change existing perception, or reinforce it. And be certain the strategic choice you made clearly fits your new public relations goal.

Now, remember that the message you use to communicate your corrective message to members of your target audience is not only crucially important to the program's success, but a real writing challenge for you and your public relations team. The message must be clearly written as to why the offending perception really needs to be clarified. Supporting facts must be above challenge and believable if your message is to be persuasive. And, it should be compelling.

Delivering your message, perhaps surprisingly, is not a complex assignment because you have a long list of communications tactics to help you do the job. They range from media interviews, emails, personal contacts and newsletters to facility tours, press releases, brochures, consumer meetings and many others. The only caution here is to check and double-check that those you choose are known to reach people like those who make up your target audience.

Sooner rather than later, you will need to determine how much progress you're making in altering the damaging perception and its equally damaging follow-on behavior. This is also not a complex challenge.

Here, you and your public relations people must once again interact with members of your target audience and ask questions similar to those used in the earlier benchmark monitoring drill.

The big difference this time around? You'll be alert to change. In other words, you want to see clear indications that the damaging perception is actually undergoing alteration in your direction.

You can always add more communications tactics, increase their frequencies and sharpen your message to move things along at a faster clip.

The result for you as a business, non-profit or association manager, will be a workable department, division or subsidiary public relations blueprint that succeeds in creating key outside audience behaviors that help lead you to success on-the-job.

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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