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A Manager's PR Paradigm

by Bob Kelly

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Published on this site: January 2004 - See more articles from this month

If you manage a department, division or subsidiary for a business, non-profit or association, your primary public relations model probably should read this way: 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.

Properly executed, this comprehensive blueprint will help you persuade your key external stakeholders to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to your unit's success.

And, as you move the emphasis of the public relations crew assigned to your operation from communications tactics to the model outlined above, YOU move ever closer to personal success as a unit manager.

Here's why. The blueprint demands of you a sharper focus on the very groups of outside people who play a major role in just how successful a manager you will be – your key external audiences.

Like most managerial initiatives you implement, your new public relations blueprint also will require aggressive execution.

So, sit down with your PR people and explore why it's so important to know how your operation is perceived by those target audience members. Make certain everyone around the table understands (and accepts) the reality that those perceptions just about always result in predictable behaviors that help or hinder your operation.

Which is precisely why your team will need to interact with your key target audience and ask a number of questions as part of this initial perception monitoring session. "What do you know, if anything, about our services, products or people? Have you ever made contact with us? Was it a positive experience? Do You have any problems with our organization?

You can always retain a professional survey firm to gather these data for you but that can be expensive. Remember that your public relations people are already in the perception and behavior business and can certainly handle this vital assignment.

Regardless of who handles perception monitoring among target audience members, it's crucial to be on alert for misconceptions, inaccuracies, false assumptions, untruths and, especially, unfounded rumors.

The reason is, the perception data you gather will form the basis of your public relations goal, which can be quite direct such as fix that inaccuracy, correct that untruth, or clarify that misconception.

At this point, you need a strategy to tell you how you're going to achieve that goal. Where matters of perception and opinion are concerned, there are really just three strategy choices: create perception where there isn't any, change existing opinion/perception, or reinforce it. But try to size your strategy choice to fit your new public relations goal.

Now, if you're to actually alter hurtful perceptions among members of your target audience, you need to prepare a message that is not only compelling in its presentation, but completely believable. And it must be crystal clear, factual and persuasive if it is to move opinion in your direction and lead to those behaviors you desire.

Now, when it comes to communication tactics to carry your message to the eyes and ears of your target audience, you're in luck. There are dozens of tactics available to do the job for you. Everything from speeches, newsletters and brochures to emails, open houses and customer briefings. But keep in mind that you must insure that the tactics you choose have a good record for reaching people just like the members of your target audience.

To show management that progress towards your goal is actually happening, you will have to duplicate the earlier perception monitoring interaction among target audience members. This time, however, you and your PR people will be watching carefully for signs that the offending perception is being altered, AND in your direction.

Happily, there's one more option open to you – you can speed up the process by adding more communications tactics to the mix, AND increasing their frequencies.

Best part about this particular blueprint is that it will help you ramp up your public relations effort in a way that let's you pursue the behavior changes you really need if you are to achieve your unit's operating objectives.

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:[email protected] Visit:www.prcommentary.com

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