Recessions Don't Last Forever!By: Robert A. Kelly
It could, but what if it doesn't?
Will you be prepared?
Will those key external audiences of yours, whose behaviors really affect you, look favorably at you and your business?
Because, once the economy emerges from recession, if they don't, you'll have one arm tied behind your back.
Don't let that happen. Instead, decide now which groups of people outside your organization can help or hurt you the most. For our purposes, that #1 group is your key target audience.
What's going through the minds of members of that audience? You and your people must monitor those perceptions by interacting with these important folks, and asking questions. Yes, that takes time, but you must do it!
Take this approach when you actually meet those members. Start with questions. What do you think of our operation, products or services? Stay alert for wrong thinking, misconceptions and inaccuracies that can hurt. Watch for rumors or beliefs that can lead to behaviors that will pain you. And be especially sensitive to negative conversational tone. Does it suggest that a problem may be on the horizon?
The answers you gather will let you create a corrective public relations goal. It may call for straightening out a damaging misconception about your service quality, or it may seek to replace an inaccurate perception with the truth. Sometimes, your public relations goal will zero in on a particularly hurtful rumor with plans to lay it to rest. For that matter, even a less than positive overall impression of your organization can be targeted for improvement by your public relations goal
How do you achieve that goal? You select a strategy that shows you how to get there. There are only three choices. Create opinion (perceptions) where none exist, change existing opinion, or reinforce it. Select the one that obviously fits your public relations goal.
Now, we think message. What are we going to say to your target audience?
First, your message must aim at correcting the misconception, inaccuracy, rumor, even a lukewarm enthusiasm for your organization. But it must be persuasive, and compelling with its meaning as clear as possible. It must also prevent any further misunderstanding. Try it out on a test sampling of members of your target audience, then adjust the content if needed.
How will you get your message to the attention of that key external audience? "Beasts of burden," that's how! Better known as communications tactics that will carry that message to the right eyes and ears.
And there are many tactics awaiting you. Personal contact, radio interviews, newsletters and open houses. Or contests, news conferences, emails and press releases. There are literally scores available.
So, after two or three months of aggressive communications between you and your key audience, are you making any progress?
Only way to find out is to monitor once again what members of your key audience are thinking. Same questions as the first set of interviews, but now what you want to see are perceptions altered in your direction.
For example, you want to know if that inaccurate belief has been successfully neutralized. Or that misconception cleared up. Or that rumor effectively killed.
Certainly, if you discover little progress in those areas, you will revisit your message and evaluate whether it offers believable facts, figures and rationale. In particular, you should revet it for clarity.
And, because there are so many communications tactics available to you, selecting higher-impact tactics, then applying them with greater frequency, will probably be the ticket for the second round.
However, as the day arrives when answers to your remonitoring questions show clear, consistent improvement, you may be excused for concluding that your public relations effort is, at long last, taking advantage of an economy emerging from recession.
© Copyright, 2003, Robert A. Kelly
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.