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Time to Spruce Up Your Public Relations?

By: Robert A. Kelly

Bob Kelly, public relations counselor, 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., Website:

Better check out the public relations fundamental premise, then take action in your own best interest.

The premise 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 those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public relations mission is accomplished.”

Here’s how you can reap its benefits.

Do you really know what your most important outside audiences think about your organization? Are you actually aware of which external audience has the most serious impacts on your operations?

Better find out by interacting with members of those target audiences whose behaviors affect you the most, then ask lots of questions. “Have you done business with us? Was it a satisfactory experience? What do you think of us and our products and services?” And watch carefully for any negatives, even undertones that may need corrective action.

The responses you receive allow you to set your public relations goal. For instance, correct that inaccuracy, straighten out the misconception, or challenge that rumor.

Not surprisingly, reaching that goal requires that you set a strategy, and only three are available to you: create opinion where there is none; change existing opinion, or reinforce it. The goal you set will lead you to the right strategy choice.

The “bullet for your gun,” so to speak, will be the message you carefully craft and send to members of your target audience. It needs to be very clear as to meaning. It must be believable and it should be compelling. Above all, your message must be persuasive since it seeks to alter perception in order to modify somebody’s behavior. Make your message very specific to your strategy: create opinion, or change opinion, or reinforce opinion.

Moving that message to members of your target audience is next, and you have a wide choice of communication tactics to do the job. Everything from speeches, emails and personal contacts to press releases, radio and newspaper interviews, special events and lots more.

By this time, you’ll be wondering whether you’re making any progress. Best way to tell is to interact once again with members of that key target audience. Ask much the same questions you used during your first perception monitoring session.

The difference the second time around is that you’re watching carefully for altered perceptions. Were you successful in straightening out that inaccurate belief? Does it appear that you turned around that awful rumor, or made headway in clarifying that misconception?

Not enough progress to suit you? Take another look at your communication tactics and consider expanding both the mix and frequencies. And review your message. Is it clear enough? Were your supporting facts and figures as strong and persuasive as they might be?

As you increase the tactical pressure, you’ll begin to notice positive changes in the perceptions of members of your target audience. In time, this will lead to the kind of behaviors you seek and, thus, the successful completion of your public relations effort.

© Copyright, 2003, Robert A. Kelly

Other Articles by 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.


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