Sound Like Your Situation?

What a shame! Potentially productive public relations people resting on their oars in a large organization. Just kind of tinkering with tactics and leaving target audience perceptions (and behaviors) to pretty much do their own thing.

Big pain on the way!

Unattended, key public perceptions can morph into painful behaviors that hurt the organization.

Just plain shouldn't happen.

In military-speak, all it takes is some ongoing "intel."

First, insist that that potentially productive public relations team get busy by prioritizing your most important audiences. They can't work on everything at once. So for starters, they can identify that really key target audience.

Then monitor perceptions by interacting with some folks who make up that audience, and do it on a regular basis. Same with other important external publics, when time allows.

What's on their minds? Any negative feelings? See or hear anything that needs correcting? Is there a problem on the horizon that may come your way?

The answers to those questions help your crew form the public relations goal ? altered perceptions leading to altered behaviors. For example, correct the impression that you sell shoddy merchandise; or a perception that you favor one particular ethnic group; or a belief that your services aren't worth the price you charge.

Setting the public relations goal let's your public relations team focus on which strategy they want to employ to reach that goal.

There's not a big choice. In fact, just three are available. They can choose between creating perceptions (opinions) when none exist, or changing existing opinion, or reinforcing it.

But their ammo will be the persuasive messages they prepare for communication to that key target audience. Messages designed to affect perceptions in a way that leads to the behaviors you desire.

The message must outline what the problem is and what some members of that target audience believe. Then it must clearly set down the truth of the matter omitting any exaggeration or hype. In other words, it must be believable, credible and especially persuasive and compelling.

Enter "beasts of burden," the communications tactics your people will use to move your message to the attention of members of your key, target audience.

There is a vast array of communications tactics from which your public relations people can choose. They include everything from face-to-face meetings, emailings, op-eds and news releases to special events, speeches, trade show appearances and town hall meetings.

Wait a minute, not so fast! How will your public relations team measure progress? Best way is to put on the monitor hats again and fan out among members of the target audience.

Using the persuasive message as a guide, are respondents aware of the message? If so, what is their reaction to it? Does your crew find evidence that prior opinion (perception) has moved in your direction? If so, to what extent? Was the create/change/reinforce strategy choice correct, or must it be adjusted? Are refinements in the message in order, meaning there is still considerable work to be done?

Obviously, the problem solving sequence must be carefully retuned as progress is made in order to keep it on target ? alter perception, change behavior, and achieve not only a successful, but the desired public relations result.

About The Author

Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks about the fundamental premise of public relations. 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. Visit:

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