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Why Good PR Warrants Your Attention

[date:2006-12-23] [zize:B M S]

Because good public relations can alter individual perceptionand lead to changed behaviors among key outside audiences.And that can help business, non-profit and associationmanagers achieve their managerial objectives.

It all happens when you do something positive about thebehaviors of those important external audiences of yoursthat most affect your operation. In particular when youpersuade those key outside folks to your way of thinking,then help move them to take actions that allow yourdepartment, division or subsidiary to succeed.

I believe the key to good PR is this reality. People act ontheir own perception of the facts before them, which leadsto predictable behaviors about which something can bedone. When we create, change or reinforce that opinionby reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action thevery people whose behaviors affect the organization themost, the public relations mission is accomplished.

In other words, your public relations effort must involvemore than special events, brochures and news releases ifyou really want to get your money’s worth.

The payoff can make your day: membership applicationson the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases;fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures;community leaders beginning to seek you out; welcomebounces in show room visits; prospects starting to dobusiness with you; higher employee retention rates,capital givers or specifying sources beginning to lookyour way, and even politicians and legislators starting toview you as a key member of the business, non-profit orassociation communities.

But who among your PR team really understands theblueprint outlined above and shows commitment to itsimplementation, starting with key audience perceptionmonitoring? Luckily, your PR people are already in theperception and behavior business, so they should be ofreal use for this initial opinion monitoring project.

Be certain that your public relations people really acceptwhy it’s SO important to know how your most importantoutside audiences perceive your operations, products orservices. Make sure they believe that perceptions almostalways result in behaviors that can help or hurt youroperation.

Talk it over with them, especially your game plan formonitoring and gathering perceptions by questioningmembers of your most important outside audiences.Questions along these lines: how much do you know aboutour organization? Have you had prior contact with us andwere you pleased with the interchange? Are you familiarwith our services or products and employees? Have youexperienced problems with our people or procedures?

Because it can run into real money using professionalsurvey firms to do the opinion monitoring work, you maywish to use those PR folks of yours in that capacity sincethey’re already in the perception and persuasion business.But, whether it’s your people or a survey firm asking thequestions, the objective remains the same: identify untruths,false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies,misconceptions and any other negative perception thatmight translate into hurtful behaviors.

What your aiming at, obviously, is a PR goal that doessomething about the most serious distortions you discoverduring your key audience perception monitoring. Will itbe to straighten out that dangerous misconception?Correct that gross inaccuracy? Or, stop that potentiallypainful rumor cold?

Of course, without the right strategy to tell you how toproceed, you won’t get there at all. So keep in mind thatthere are just three strategic options available when itcomes to doing something about perception and opinion.Change existing perception, create perception where theremay be none, or reinforce it. The wrong strategy pick willtaste like horseradish on your pancakes, so be sure yournew strategy fits well with your new public relations goal.You wouldn’t want to select “change” when the factsdictate a strategy of reinforcement.

Here, you must come up with a well-written message and sendit to members of your target audience. It’s always a challengeto create an actionable message that will help persuade anyaudience to your way of thinking.

What you want now is your strongest writers because s/hemust build some very special, corrective language. Wordsthat are not merely compelling, persuasive and believable,but clear and factual if they are to shift perception/opiniontowards your point of view and lead to the behaviors youhave in mind.

After your PR team has signed off on draft copy of yourmessage, you move on to the next selection process -- thecommunications tactics most likely to carry your messageto the attention of your target audience. There are scoresthat are available. From speeches, facility tours, emails andbrochures to consumer briefings, media interviews,newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But youmust be certain that the tactics you pick are known to reachfolks like your audience members.

An alert: you may wish to avoid too loud a voice withthis kind of message and unveil it before smaller meetingsand presentations rather than using higher-profile newsreleases, as the credibility of any message is fragile andalways at stake.

From this point forward, you’ll start getting requests forprogress reports, which tells you and your PR team to begina second perception monitoring session with members of yourexternal audience. You’ll want to use many of the samequestions used in the first benchmark session. But now,you will be on red alert for signs that the bad newsperception is being altered in your direction.

It does seem fortunate that such matters usually can beaccelerated simply by adding more communicationstactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

The value of public relations to managers becomes clearerwhen you realize that the people you deal with behave likeeveryone else – they act upon their perceptions of the factsthey hear about you and your operation. Which means youreally have little choice but to deal promptly and effectivelywith those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reachand move those key external audiences of yours to actionsyou desire.

 
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