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What You Dont Know About PR Can Hurt You

[date:2006-12-22] [zize:B M S]

What You Don’t Know About PR Can Hurt You

And hurt bad if you are a business, non-profit or associationmanager. Especially when you rely too heavily on tacticslike special events, brochures and press releases to get yourmoney’s worth.

Instead, pursue public relations that does nothing less thanalter individual perception and lead to changed behaviorsamong those key outside audiences of yours.

In other words, the best approach does something positiveabout the behaviors of those key external audiencesthat MOST affect your operation.

That approach persuades your important external folks toyour way of thinking, and moves them to take actions thatallow your department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

Thus it creates the kind of stakeholder behavior change thatleads directly to achieving your managerial objectives.

Best part is, once you digest the underlying premise of publicrelations, you’ll understand how the right PR really CANalter individual perception and lead to those changedbehaviors you need. Here’s how it goes: people act on theirown perception of the facts before them, which leads topredictable behaviors about which something can be done.When we create, change or reinforce that opinion byreaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action thevery people whose behaviors affect the organization themost, the public relations mission is accomplished.

Keep in mind that it requires more than good old specialevents, brochures and news releases if you really want toend up with your PR money’s worth.

Fact is, business, non-profit and association managerswho employ this kind of public relations can benefit fromresults such as new proposals for strategic alliances andjoint ventures; rebounds in showroom visits; membershipapplications on the rise; community service and sponsorshipopportunities; enhanced activist group relations, and expandedfeedback channels, not to mention new thoughtleader andspecial event contacts.

Over time, you’ll notice customers making repeatpurchases; prospects reappearing; stronger developingrelationships with the educational, labor, financial andhealthcare communities; improved relations with governmentagencies and legislative bodies, and even capital givers orspecifying sources glancing your way.

It goes without saying that you want your most importantoutside audiences to really perceive your operations,products or services in a positive light. So take pains to besure that your PR staff has bought into the whole effort.Convince yourself that they accept the reality thatperceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can helpor hurt your unit.

Spend some time together and review the PR blueprint verycarefully with your staff, especially regarding how you willgather and monitor perceptions by questioning membersof your most important outside audiences. Questions such as:how much do you know about our organization? How much doyou know about our services or products and employees?Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleasedwith the how things went? Have you experienced problemswith our people or procedures?

Certainly you can count on professional survey people tohandle the perception monitoring phases of your program IFthe budget is available. But luckily, your PR people are alsoin the perception and behavior business and can pursue thesame objective: identify untruths, false assumptions,unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and anyother negative perception that might translate into hurtfulbehaviors.

We should spend a moment on your public relations goal.You need one that addresses the problems that cropped upduring your key audience perception monitoring. Chances are,it will call for straightening out that dangerous misconception,or correcting that gross inaccuracy, or doing something aboutthat damaging rumor.

Another truism is that goals need strategies to show youhow to get there. And you have just three strategic choiceswhen it comes to handling a perception or opinion challenge:create perception where there may be none, change theperception, or reinforce it. Unfortunately, selecting a badstrategy will taste like maple syrup on your ziti, so be certainthe new strategy fits well with your new public relationsgoal. For example, you don’t want to select “change”when the facts dictate a “reinforce” strategy.

Because persuading an audience to your way of thinking isawfully hard work, you now must create the right correctivelanguage including words that are compelling, persuasive,believable AND clear and factual. This is a must if you areto correct a perception by shifting opinion towards yourpoint of view, leading to the desired behaviors. So, meetagain with your communications specialists and reviewyour message for impact and persuasiveness.

Now you need to select the communications tactics mostlikely to carry your words to the attention of your targetaudience. Happily there are dozens available. Fromspeeches, facility tours, emails and brochuresto consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters,personal meetings and many others. But be sure that thetactics you pick are known to reach folks just like youraudience members.

Sad, but the credibility of your message could depend onits delivery method. So, consider introducing it to smallergatherings rather than using higher-profile communicationssuch as news releases or talk show appearances.

Progress reports will suggest themselves in due course. Andthat probably will mean you and your PR folks should returnto the field for a second perception monitoring session withmembers of your external audience. Using many of the samequestions used in the first benchmark session, watch carefullyfor signs that your communications tactics have worked andthat the negative perception is being altered in your direction.

If you sense your colleagues or your client becoming impatient,you can always accelerate matters with a broader selection of communications tactics AND increased frequencies.

You won’t get hurt when you apply your budget to publicrelations activity that creates behavior change among your keyoutside audiences that leads directly to achieving your goals.

That will demonstrate conclusively that the right PR reallyCAN alter individual perception. And better yet, lead tochanged behaviors that help you reach those managerialobjectives and come out on top.


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