The Best PR Has to Offer ManagersBy: Robert A. Kelly
How cool is this? You’re a business, non-profit or association manager. You decide to get serious about your public relations and shift the spotlight away from communications tactics. You implement an action blueprint that (1), helps you persuade your key external stakeholders to your way of thinking. And then (2), helps move them to take actions that lead to your success as a department, division or subsidiary manager.
It comes into sharper focus when that public relations blueprint helps deliver target audience behaviors like new waves of prospects buzzing around, more qualified calls about strategic alliances, a jump up in repeat purchases, a boost in the number of engineering consultants specifying your products or services, and even increased membership applications and contributions.
What is that blueprint, anyway? Try 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.
As I’ve said many times in the past about that fundamental premise of public relations, it shines the PR spotlight directly on those outside groups of people with a large say about how successful a manager is going to be – namely, it targets his or her most important external audiences.
But you need the PR folks assigned to your unit to buy into the program and shift their priorities from communications tactics to a workable, comprehensive plan like this one designed to deliver those key, outside audience behaviors.
Behaviors, by the way, that obviously help or hinder a manager in achieving his or her operating objectives.
The real work for you as the department, division or subsidiary manager starts by listing all your key external audiences in priority order so that you initially focus your resources on that number one audience.
Next step is answering the question, what do members of that audience think about your organization? Short of spending big money on professional survey counsel, you and your PR team can/should/must interact with those members by asking questions such as “What, if anything, do you think about us? Have you ever dealt with our people? Were you pleased with the experience? Have you heard other comments about our organization?”
At each step in this perception monitoring drill, you and your team must watch carefully for negatives like false assumptions, rumors, misconceptions and inaccurate statements. In other words, negativities that might turn into target audience behaviors that could really damage your operation.
The monitoring data you collect is the stuff of your public relations goal. For example, stifle the rumor, straighten out the misconception, turn around the false assumption, or make that inaccuracy accurate.
However, managers know that achieving any goal demands the right supporting strategy to show you how to reach it. Considering the workload, you’ll be glad to know that opinion/perception matters allow just three strategy choices: create perception where there isn’t any, change existing perception, or reinforce it. But be alert to the need to select a strategy that directly complements your public relations goal.
The real burden of this PR problem solving sequence rests with the actual message you use to communicate your corrective facts to your target audience. This is where the public relations heavy lifting takes aim at altering individual perception among your target audience population.
First and foremost, your message must be clear, persuasive and carefully factual if it is to nudge perception/opinion in your direction and lead directly to those behaviors you desire. And it will do so only if your message is both believable and compelling. Which suggests that it be vetted prior to release by a variety of individuals to insure that it measures up to these standards.
You’re in luck because you will benefit from a long list of communications tactics to help carry your message to the eyes and ears of members of your target audience. The list includes tactics like speeches, special events, media interviews and newsletters as well as press releases, customer briefings, facility tours, emails and quite a few others. Only caution here is, research each tactic carefully to be certain it has a record of reaching people just like those who make up your target audience.
Fortunately, things can always be accelerated by adding more high- impact communications tactics, increasing their frequencies and fine-tuning your message.
Answering the opening question, using a public relations blueprint of this nature can be extremely “cool.” Especially when you, as a unit manager for a business, non-profit or association, take these steps to help persuade your key outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then help move them to take actions that lead to your managerial success.
In my view, that IS the best PR has to offer managers.
© Copyright, 2004, Robert A. Kelly
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