PR Going According to Plan?

by : Robert A. Kelly

Think carefully! You’re a department, division or subsidiary manager for a business, non-profit or association and you really need to achieve your operating objectives.

But even a yes response to the headline above leaves the really big question unanswered – does your current public relations plan help persuade your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to your success?

If the answer to that question is uncertain or even no, change is in order. Change that gives you a public relations blueprint that helps lead to managerial success and, some might say, survival.

I refer here to the kind of blueprint that moves the emphasis from communications tactics to an aggressive plan for reaching those outside groups of people with a big say about how successful you’re going to be – your key external audiences.

Here’s the essence of such a blueprint: 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.

Use it to deliver behavior results like lots of new inquiries, buyers coming back for more, fresh queries about joint ventures and strategic alliances, meaningful increases in capital contributions or brand new specifiers of your component products and services.

To make it work, you need to lead those public relations people assigned to your unit away from a preoccupation with communications tactics over to that new, comprehensive blueprint. As a manager, you’re now prepared to create the external audience behaviors you need to achieve your department’s business, non-profit or association objectives.

Charge your PR team with finding out how those key outside audiences perceive your operation. That will require interaction with members of that audience which you will identify when the team prioritizes those groups in order of their impacts on your unit. Here, your choice is, spend significant money on professional survey people to handle the perception monitoring chore, or use members of your assigned PR team to gather the data. Remember that your public relations team is already in the perception and behavior business.

Either way, questions must be asked. “What do you know about us? Have you had positive or negative contact with our folks? Do you have an opinion about our services or products?

Keep your antennae up for any signs of negativity. Did questioners note a glaring inaccuracy? Or a false assumption about your operation? How about any hurtful misconceptions or rumors? Evasive or hesitant responses should also be noted.

Now you’re ready to establish your public relations goal which could be as simple as “correct that dangerous inaccuracy," or “squash that hurtful rumor" because of the damaging behaviors such negatives can create.

But how to achieve that goal? With the right strategy, of course.

Because there are just three strategies available in matters of perception/opinion, you can create perception where there may be none, change an existing perception/opinion, or reinforce it. But be certain that your strategy choice meshes with your new public relations goal.

Here’s where your PR team’s writing talent comes to the fore. You need a corrective message that will alter negative perceptions among members of your target audience. As unit manager, you need to stay involved in message preparation to make certain it is compelling, persuasive, well-written, fact-based and believable if your target audience’s perceptions are to be altered towards your point of view.

Getting that nifty piece of writing to the attention of that audience of yours is easily accomplished. And here is where communications tactics DO matter. They’ll carry your message to audience members using everything from personal contacts, brochures and media interviews to speeches, newsletters and facility tours. But be certain that your chosen tactics are known to reach people like those in your target audience.

Soon you’ll need hard evidence that the negative perception is really being altered according to plan. This demands that you return to the field and remonitor the perceptions of your target audience members. This time, however, your team will be alert for indications that the offending perception is really changing in the way you planned.

By the way, things can always be moved along faster by adding new communications tactics, and by increasing their frequencies.

As noted at the outset of this article, you need to persuade your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to your success as a unit manager.

Your new public relations blueprint will help you reach that objective.