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When Managers Play the PR Card

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

The payoff for business, non-profit or association managers can be a real assist towards meeting their department, division or subsidiary objectives.

Playing that public relations card means theyíve decided to pursue their objectives by reaching, persuading and moving those outside audiences whose behaviors most affect their organizations, to actions those managers desire.

Hereís a blueprint to help them do just that: 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.

In other words, here is the PR blueprint and tools you need to persuade your most important external
stakeholders to your way of thinking. And then move them to take actions that lead to your success.

First step? Shift the attention of the PR team assigned to your unit away from communications tactics and over to a more effective action plan like the one outlined above.

Youíll know itís worth the effort when you begin to see stakeholder behaviors like strong increases in inquiries, more repeat purchases, new proposals for strategic alliances or joint ventures, a fresh round of employment inquiries, or stronger contribution levels.

Lay it all out for the PR people who work for your unit, especially why itís a must to list in priority order those key outside audiences whose behaviors impact your operation the most. Talk about the importance of discovering how your organization is perceived by those audience members. Particularly because such perceptions almost always result in predictable behaviors that can affect the success of your unit for better or for worse.

If you have a large, uncommitted budget, you can use professional survey counsel to interact with target audience members and ask the important questions. ďDo you know anything about us? Do you have an opinion about our products or services? Have you ever had a transaction with us? Was it a positive experience?Ē Or, members of your public relations team can handle this crucial task since perception, persuasion and behavior are prime concerns of theirs, or certainly should be.

While handling the perception monitoring chore, keep an eye out for negative comment and voice inflections. Especially watch for inappropriate assumptions, misconceptions, inaccuracies, rumors and clearly negative attitudes.

Once you collect these data, youíre ready to establish your public relations goal. For example, torpedo those false assumptions, turn those misconceptions around, or correct that unfortunate inaccuracy.

The goal by itself is not much use without a strategy to show you how to reach it. As luck would have it, there are just three strategies available in the perception and opinion game: create perception/opinion where there simply isnít any, change the existing perception, or reinforce it. Makes things simple, but be sure the strategy you select is an obvious fit with your new goal.

The meat on this bone is the actual message you will prepare should the perceptions you discovered require some alteration. This is not a simple writing job and the very best writing talent on your PR team will be required. The message must be both persuasive and compelling. It must be very clear as to what is being corrected and why. Factual support, of course, must be above challenge if your message is to be believable as it works to alter perception in your direction.

And now to the easy part of this public relations problem solving sequence Ė getting that message to the right eyes and ears among the members of your target audience. The main limiting factor will be the size of your budget since there are dozens of communications tactics available to carry that message. They range from emails, speeches and private meetings to newsletters, media interviews, brochures and group briefings. Just be sure the tactics you decide to go with demonstrate that they can reach the same kind of folks that populate your target audience.

Youíll be best equipped to answer queries about program progress after you and your PR team again interact with those target audience members asking the same questions used in the initial perception monitoring session. Big difference in the two sessions? This time, all hands will be alert to any signs that the negative perception has actually been altered.

Want things to move faster? Add more communications tactics, increase their frequencies and take another look at your message to be certain it's really persuasive and compelling.

The good news is, when managers play the PR card, they concentrate on persuading their most important external stakeholders to their way of thinking. And then moving those target audience members to take actions that lead to the managers on-the-job success.

© 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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