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Something “New” for Managers?

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. mailto:bobkelly@TNI.net, Website: www.prcommentary.com

A new public relations blueprint could be a good idea if you’re a business, non-profit or association manager who’s not getting the important external audience behaviors you need to achieve your department, division or subsidiary objectives.

You know, behaviors like more people interested in your services or products, or more capital contributions coming in the door, or more corporate membership applications hitting your desk.

While those kinds of behaviors may warm the cockles of a manager’s heart, they’re not going to happen for you if you encourage, or allow the public relations team assigned to your unit to concentrate on simple tactics to the exclusion of a workable and comprehensive action blueprint.

In other words, a strategy, say, like this one: 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.

Now that’s not only a blueprint, it’s a foundation for a public relations effort that can persuade those important external stakeholders to your way of thinking. Then move them to take actions that lead to your success as a manager working for a business, non-profit or association.

Here’s one way to do it. Decide that you’re going to spend some quality time with your PR folks and tell them you really want to find out what those outside audiences, those with the behaviors that really impact your operation, actually think about you. Next, put your target audiences in priority order so we can get to work on your #1.

By the way, because your PR people could be surprised at this kind of public relations blueprint, you had best stay personally involved as the effort gets off the ground. Another good reason to do so, is that actually doing something about key audience behaviors can have a positive effect on your own organizational success.

Now, as you find out how your operation is perceived by these important outside audiences, you will need to make an immediate choice. Spend a large chunk of your budget for professional survey people to ask questions of members of your target audience, or ask your PR team, and other employees to do it.

Interacting with outside audience members lets your people ask questions like “How do you feel about us? How recently have you had contact with our personnel? Have you actually used our services or products? Do you have any questions or problems with regard to our organization?”

The data gathered by this exercise is the raw material you need to establish your public relations goal. For instance, correct that inaccuracy, clear up that misconception or spike that rumor.

To achieve such a public relations goal, you’ll need the right strategy to show you how to do it. And the choice of strategies is not complex because there are just three available when you address matters of opinion and perception: change existing opinion, create perception where none exists, or reinforce an existing perception/opinion. Always be careful that your chosen strategy flows naturally from your public relations goal.

Now, what will you say to members of that key target audience that, hopefully, will alter the inaccurate perception you discovered? You want your message to be crystal-clear as it details why that perception is just not true. From such clarity should come believability and a compelling delivery that can lead to the target audience behaviors you need to meet your department, division or subsidiary objectives.

Actually delivering the message is the least complex step in the public relations problem solving sequence. Fortunately for you, there is a large collection of communications tactics available to you ranging from your own personal contacts, service or product promotions, news announcements and consumer briefings to newsletters, media interviews, emails and dozens of other tactics.

In due course, you, your team and other interested parties will want to assess how your public relations effort is faring at altering the offending perception. Best way to determine that is to duplicate your earlier benchmark monitoring session putting similar questions to the members of your target audience. The important difference now? You’re watching carefully for signs that the troublesome perception is being altered in your direction.

That altered perception, leading inevitably to predictable behaviors, is the bottom line. And a strong indication that a workable department or division public relations blueprint can help a unit manager achieve his or her operating objectives.

© Copyright, 2004, 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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