Get Outsiders on Your Side

Especially good advice for business, non-profit and association managers whose job success depends in large part on the behaviors of their key external audiences.

I refer to behaviors like inquiries on the increase, new waves of specialized employment applications, more and more followup purchases, new levels of membership queries, a substantial boost in capital donations, or more frequent component specifications by engineering firms.

If you are such a manager, you almost assuredly need help in achieving your unit's operating objectives. Which is why it's nice to hear that the public relations team assigned to your operation is responsible for providing a large portion of that help.

Two things need to happen to make that a reality. One, it requires more than your oversight. You must stay involved with your public relations folks at every major decision point.

And two, the entire effort must be based on more than a casual debate about which communications tactics should be used.

What is needed is your commitment to a fundamental premise that is the foundation on which your entire public relations effort will be based. A premise like 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.

With that established, we can get to work on the blueprint that will help persuade those important members of your key target audiences to your way of thinking. What you hope for then, is follow on stakeholder actions that result in your success as a business, non-profit or association manager.

Before taking any action steps, you need to know how members of your key target audiences perceive you. So, first, you and your PR team need to list those important outside audiences whose behaviors affect your unit the most. Then prioritize them so we can use the audience in first place on that list as our target audience for this article.

Instead of spending considerable money on professional survey work, you and your team can interact with members of your target audience and pose a number of questions designed to draw out any perception problems. "Do you know anything about us? Have you had any contacts with our people? Were they satisfactory? Do you have any problems with our services, products or people?"

As you interact with audience members, watch closely for evasive or hesitant responses to your questions. And be equally watchful for negative misconceptions, rumors, exaggerations, inaccuracies or untruths.

These data are grist for your mill, i.e., the information you need to establish a public relations goal that corrects the offending opinion/perception. Such a goal might look like these: spike that rumor, clarify that misconception, or correct that inaccuracy.

Now, you need a pathway leading to your public relations goal, and that means you must pick a strategy showing you how to get there. Luckily, there are just three strategies in matters of opinion and perception: create perception where there isn't any, change existing perception, or reinforce it. Just be certain that the strategy you select is a logical fit with the public relations goal you just established.

Now, what you say to members of your target audience must clearly address the offending perception gently but firmly. Your message must be believable, compelling and, at the same time, explain why the current perception is not merely untrue, but unfair. It is no easy job to alter what people believe, which is why writing such a message demands persuasive writing ability.

To maintain the credibility of the message, you may wish to piggy-back it on another announcement or presentation rather than using the higher-profile press release format.

Happily, when it comes to delivering your message to members of your target audience, you have multiple choices for your communications tactics. Everything from newsletters, bulletins and alerts, special events and speeches to print and broadcast interviews, press releases, consumer/member briefings and many more. Just be sure the tactics your use can demonstrate that they reach people similar to those who make up your target audience.

Before long, you, your PR team, and others in your unit will want to see some progress. Best (and most frugal) way to determine that is to return to perception monitoring in the field and ask members of your key target audience the same questions used in the earlier session.

Only this time, you'll be on alert for indications that the offending perceptions are changing as you planned, along with predictable follow on behaviors.

By the way, things can always move faster by adding other communications tactics, and using them on a more frequent basis.

Yes, for managers whose job success depends to a large degree on the behaviors of their key external audiences, a public relations problem-solving sequence like this one IS especially good advice!

About The Author

Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks to business, non-profit and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR, 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. Visit: http://www.prcommentary.com

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Top Ten Tips For Great Sound Bites

If you're an online business using public relations (PR) to... Read More

Dont Need No Stinking PR?

Almost assuredly you do, especially when your most important external... Read More

Sound Like Your Situation?

What a shame! Potentially productive public relations people resting on... Read More

Public Relations Strategies: Focus PR Campaigns with Media Coverage Analysis

Prior to launching a new public relations campaign, evaluate the... Read More

Same Time Next Year: Using Editorial Calendars as Part of your PR Efforts

It's the time of year when calendars crowd out the... Read More

Managers, Start Your PR

There'll never be a better time for a manager working... Read More

Are You a PR Chowderhead?

You are if you stand by while your public relations... Read More

Two Donts for Financial Planners Seeking Free Publicity

Many of my clients have had the misguided perception that... Read More

A Winning Public Relations Game Plan

You want to sell your products or services, and that... Read More

Is There a Plumber in the House?

I don't know about you but I get really frustrated... Read More

The Story The Media Really Wants

If you're like most of my clients, you're probably interested... Read More

Publicity: Nailing a Media Interview, Part I

The most important thing to remember for any interview: stay... Read More

Ill Alert The Media

There is something newsworthy happening at your organization right now.... Read More

Why PR is a Vital Force

Because it can alter individual perception and lead to changed... Read More

Media Relations: Should You Pay For News Coverage?

Dear New York Times:I'd like to be quoted in one... Read More

Cutting Down Your Trade Show Budget

Whenever a recession or volatility threatens the economy, companies immediately... Read More

Right PR Empowers a Manager

Business, non-profit and association managers are in a stronger position... Read More

Make Sure Your Media Room Rocks

If a reporter was writing a story about you and... Read More

So Whats Wrong With Strategic?

Some folks see the word "strategic" as a needlessly tiresome... Read More

What I Do

I believe this about public relations.People act on their own... Read More

Put Yourself in the Reporters Shoes

Imagine you're the technology reporter at a daily newspaper. You... Read More

How PR Makes a Managers Life Easier

Things are pleasant for many business, non-profit or association managers... Read More

The Press Release Method to Get Great Publicity

If you have had any experience in public relations or... Read More

The Key to Great PR

The Key to Great PR is PerseveranceBy Paula Gardner of... Read More

All You Need to Know About Press Release Writing and Distribution

Before you even think about writing a press release, there... Read More

Preparing For Your Media Interview

Media interviews are an important part of an overall public... Read More

Seven Tips To Get Your Press Release Noticed

If you're seeking to promote yourself or your new business... Read More

Managers, Have You Been Shortchanged?

You have been if you're a business, non-profit or association... Read More

Make the Media Your Friend

The media (newspaper, radio, television) can be of enormous help... Read More

Is This Any Way to Run Your PR?

You bet!Especially for business, non-profit and association managers who REALLY... Read More

Building Credibility Through Bylined Articles

As if making sure your company runs smoothly on an... Read More

Something New For Managers?

A new public relations blueprint could be a good idea... Read More

Dont Use PR

?lose the confidence of your key target audiences? discourage them... Read More