Managers: Got the Right PR?

As a business, non-profit, government agency or association

manager, are you satisfied with using a collection of

communications tactics to move a message from one point

to another. You know, creating print and broadcast

exposures? Publicity, if you will?

No problem, if that’s all you believe you really need.

But, have you ever thought about pulling out all the PR stops

to help achieve your unit’s managerial objectives?

I mean, you COULD do something really significant about

those important outside audience behaviors that MOST affect

the department, group, division or subsidiary unit you manage.

Then take advantage of the perception levels you’ve achieved

as those key external audiences of yours become persuaded to

your managerial way of thinking.

And, for that matter, once you’ve persuaded a number of

members of that key external audience to your views on the

issue in question, watch their perceptions closely as they

morph into behavioral actions that allow your unit to succeed.

That might even make your day! And it’s all very doable.

But not if you insist on limiting your offensive public relations

effort to simply creating print and broadcast exposures. Instead,

you should be preparing to do something positive about the

behaviors of the very outside audiences of yours that MOST

affect your operation. Because that’s when public relations can

actually create the kind of external stakeholder behavior change

that leads directly to achieving those key managerial objectives

of yours.

Thus your real managerial opportunity arises when it becomes

painfully obvious that counterproductive behaviors by target

audiences are the direct result of negative perceptions about

your organization or its services, products or personnel.

Suddenly, it becomes clear why you have to monitor opinion

among members of your most important outside audiences to

(1) determine how they perceive your organization; (2) to

identify and prioritize your public relations goals; (3) to create

and communicate corrective messages to those key outside

audiences and (4), to carefully monitor how and when those

perceptions inevitably convert to the key audience behaviors

you know, as manager, you need.

In brief, what you really require is an action-based blueprint that

leans on you to do some meaningful things about the behaviors

of those important outside audiences that MOST affect your

operation; to create the kind of external stakeholder behavior

change that leads directly to achieving your managerial

objectives; and to do so by persuading those key outside folks

to your views, then help move them to take actions that allow

your department, group, division or subsidiary to succeed.

You can count on the underlying premise of this kind of

managerial public relations: 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 usually

accomplished.

A variety of results are possible when you work public

relations this way: customers making repeat purchases; a

rebound in showroom visits; new proposals for strategic

alliances and joint ventures; membership applications on the

rise; improved relations with government agencies and

legislative bodies; capital givers or specifying sources looking

your way; fresh community service and sponsorship

opportunities; prospects starting to work with you, and even

stronger relationships with the educational, labor, financial

and healthcare communities.

It always pays off when you clear some time for planning

meetings with your public relations people. For example, get

their input on your plans to monitor and gather perceptions by

questioning members of your most important outside audiences.

Suggest queries along these lines: how much do you know about

our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were

you pleased with the exchange? Are you familiar with our

services or products and employees? Have you experienced

problems with our people or procedures?

You might also reinforce your confidence in the PR team by

insuring that they really accept why it’s SO important to know

how your most important outside audiences perceive your

operations, products or services? And do you believe THEY

believe that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that

can help or hurt your operation? This is essential to PR success.

One of the facts of life in dealing with opinion polling matters,

is that things often go better when a professional survey firm

helps monitor your key audience’s perceptions. But real pros

cost real money, compared to using your existing public relations

staff who, while they ARE already in the perception and behavior

business, also cost money. But whether it’s your people or a

survey firm asking the questions, the objective remains the

same: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors,

inaccuracies, misconception and any other negative perception

that might translate into hurtful behaviors.

Setting your public relations goal is the tip of the spear. Your

new PR goal should call for action on the most serious problem

areas you uncovered during your key audience perception

monitoring. You may, for example, decide to straighten out that

dangerous misconception, bring to an end that potentially

painful rumor, or correct that terrible inaccuracy.

Seldom can public relations people, or most other managers

for that matter, establish a new PR goal without the support of

an action-oriented strategy. If, that is, you are to know HOW to

get to where you’re going. Plus, remember that you have just

three strategic options available to you when it comes to doing

something about perception and opinion: change existing

perception, create perception where there may be none, or

reinforce it. Needless to say, the wrong strategy pick will taste

like fish sauce on your grilled quail. So be sure your new

strategy fits well with your new public relations goal. You

certainly don’t want to pursue “change” when the facts dictate

a strategy of reinforcement.

Recruit the best writer on your team to prepare a carefully

-written message targeted directly at your key external

audience. To move that key audience to your way of

thinking, s/he must produce some really corrective language

that is not merely compelling, persuasive and believable,

but clear and factual if they are to shift perception/opinion

towards your point of view and lead to the behaviors you

have in mind.

Carefully selected communications tactics (and there are

many such available) will be needed to carry your message

to the attention of your target audience. You may pick from

such time-honored devices as speeches, facility tours, emails

and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,

newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be

certain that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just

like your audience members.

As “opening day” approaches, you may want to partially

neutralize any opposition to your message by unveiling your

corrective message before smaller meetings rather than using

higher profile news releases or broadcast announcements.

Reason is, a message’s credibility can be fragile and often

suspect, depending on how it is delivered.

It’s always a satisfying feeling when you can illustrate how the

monies spent on public relations can pay off. That’s why the

time needed to prepare and distribute progress reports

is time well invested. They are, however, also your alert to

start a second perception monitoring session with members

of your external audience. Here, you’ll use many of the same

questions used in the benchmark interviews. Only difference

now is, you will be on strict alert for signs that the bad news

perception is being altered in your direction.

If you feel impatient with the program’s rate of progress, you

always have the prerogative of adding more communications

tactics, and/or increasing their frequencies to address that

problem.

In essence, making sure you get the right managerial public

relations requires that you resolve to do something about the

behaviors of those outside audiences that most affect your

operation; to create the kind of external stakeholder behavior

change that leads directly to achieving your managerial

objectives; and to do so by persuading those key outside folks

to your way of thinking by helping move them to take actions

that allow your department, group, division or subsidiary unit

to succeed.

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Robert A. Kelly © 2006.