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She Who Has the Gold...

?makes the rules, of course.

But when the gold takes the form of top-notch public relations, she AND he get to make rules like these:

Our PR concentrates on delivering what we really need.

Our PR does something positive about the behaviors of those outside audiences that MOST affect our organization.

Our PR persuades those key outside people to our way of thinking, then moves them to take actions that allow our department, division or subsidiary to succeed.

In other words, our PR uses its fundamental premise to deliver external stakeholder behavior change, the kind that leads directly to achieving our managerial objectives.

And that fundamental premise? Here's what it looks like: 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.

If you do just what we've covered so far, what kind of results might come your way? How about welcome bounces in show room visits; community leaders beginning to seek you out; membership applications on the rise; customers starting to make repeat purchases; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to do business with you; higher employee retention rates, capital givers or specifying sources beginning to look your way, and even politicians and legislators starting to view you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

But you had best get your public relations people involved by getting them on board this kind of approach to PR. Be sure everyone buys into why it's so important to know how your outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services. Be especially certain they accept the reality that negative perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can damage your organization.

Reason together about how you will monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. Questions like these: how much do you know about our organization? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

And do remember that your PR people are already in the perception and behavior business and can be of real use for this opinion monitoring project. Of course you can always use professional survey firms, but that can be a budget buster. However, whether it's your people or a survey firm who handles the questioning, the objective is to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions .

Your next chore is identifying which of the problems outlined above becomes your corrective public relations goal ? clarify the misconception, spike that rumor, correct the false assumption or fix a variety of other possible inaccuracies?

Fact is, you can meet that goal only when you select the right strategy from the three choices available to you. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Picking the wrong strategy is about as cool as serving a meat and potatoes guy an asparagus and broccoli casserole with braised celery on the side. So please be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You wouldn't want to select "change" when the facts dictate a "reinforce" strategy.

And now the toughest part of this job -- create a persuasive message aimed at members of your target audience. Always a challenge to put together action-forcing language that will help persuade any audience to your way of thinking.

Because s/he must create some very special, corrective language, be certain you have your best writer on the assignment. You need words that are not only 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.

Happy to say that things get easier. Identify the communications tactics you need to carry your message to the attention of your target audience. Insuring that the tactics you select have a record of reaching folks like your audience members, you can pick from dozens that are available. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others.

As often is the case, the credibility of the message can be dependent on the credibility of its delivery method, you may wish to deliver it in small getogether-like meetings and presentations rather than through a higher-profile media announcement.

Requests for progress reports will probably be heard from various quarters. Let that signal to you that you and your PR team had best undertake a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. You'll want to use many of the same questions used in the first benchmark session. But now, you will be watching very carefully for signs that the bad news perception is being altered in your direction.

And rest easy when things seem to be slowing down. These matters usually can be accelerated by adding more communications tactics as well as increasing their frequencies.

The bottom line is, this workable public relations blueprint will help you persuade your most important outside stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to behave in a way that leads to the success of your department, division or subsidiary.

So, no matter who has the gold, the public relations rules that will best serve any business, non-profit or association manager read this way: the people you deal with do, in fact, behave like everyone else ? they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. Leaving you not much choice but to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach and move your key external audiences to actions you desire.

end

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net. Word count is 1190 including guidelines and resource box. Robert A. Kelly © 2005.

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 communi- cations, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press secretary, The White House. He holds a bachelor of science degree from Columbia University, major in public relations. mailto:bobkelly@TNI.net Visit:http://www.prcommentary.com

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