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Public relations managers MUST plan to do something positive about the behaviors of those valuable external audiences of theirs that MOST affect their operation. Certainly, you could gauge the rather narrow results achieved by tactical subsets of your public relations program like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs or press releases. On the other hand, you as a business, non-profit or association manager, might better measure the results of your strategic efforts to adjust individual perception among your key outside audiences leading to changed behaviors, which then help you achieve your managerial objectives. Public relations managers MUST plan to do something positive about the behaviors of those important external audiences of theirs that most affect their operation.
And especially so when they persuade those key outside folks to their way of thinking by helping to move them to take actions that allow their department, division or subsidiary to succeed. But of course it takes more than good intentions for any manager to alter individual, key-audience perception leading to changed behaviors, something of profound significance to ALL business, non-profit and association managers. He or she needs a plan dedicated to getting every member of the public relations team working towards the same external audience behaviors which insures that the organization’s public relations effort stays sharply focused. The plan could be based on a foundation that looks like this: 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. Results can materialize faster than you might suspect. For example, bounces in showroom visits; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; customers making repeat purchases; prospects starting to work with them;membership applications on the rise, and capital givers or specifying sources looking their way. Keep an eye on the real performers at work. They find out who among their key external audiences is behaving in ways that help or hinder the achievement of their objectives. Then, they list them according to how severely their behaviors affect their organization.
Next, they must determine how most members of that key outside audience perceive the organization. If the resources to pay for what could be costly professional survey counsel aren’t there, Ms. or Mr. manager and his or her PR colleagues will have to monitor those perceptions themselves. Actually, the PR folks should already be quite familiar with how to gather and assess perception and behavior data. Doing so means meeting with members of that outside audience and asking questions like “Are you familiar with our services or products?” “Have you ever had contact with anyone from our organization? Was it a satisfactory experience?” And if you are that manager, you must be sensitive to negative statements, especially evasive or hesitant replies.
Watch carefully for false assumptions, untruths, misconceptions, inaccuracies and potentially damaging rumors.
When you find such, you will need to take steps to correct them, as they inevitably lead to negative behaviors. Now comes the challenge of selecting the specific perception to be altered which then becomes your public relations goal. You obviously want to correct those untruths, inaccuracies, misconceptions or false assumptions.
The core reality of the whole drill is that a PR goal without a strategy to show you how to get there is meaningless. It’s just not the same. So, as you select one of three strategies (especially constructed to create perception or opinion where there may be none, or change or reinforce it,) what you must do is insure that the goal and its strategy match each other. You wouldn’t want to select “change existing perception” when current perception is suggesting a “reinforce” strategy.
Now the time has come when you must create a compelling message carefully constructed to alter your key target audience’s perception, as specified by your public relations goal. Remember that you can always combine your corrective message with another news announcement or presentation which may give it more credibility by downplaying the apparent need for such a correction. The content of the message must be compelling and quite clear about what perception needs clarification or correction, and why. Naturally you must be truthful and your position logically explained and believable if it is to hold the attention of members of that target audience, and actually move perception in your direction.
Occasionally, folks in the PR business will allude to the communications tactics necessary to move your message to the attention of that key external audience, as “beasts of burden” because they must carry your persuasive new thoughts to the eyes and ears of those important outside people. Luckily, there is a wide choice because the list of tactics is lengthy. It includes letters-to-the-editor, brochures, press releases and speeches. Or, you might choose radio and newspaper interviews, personal contacts, facility tours or customer briefings. There are scores available and the only selection requirement is that the communications tactics you choose have a record of reaching people just like the members of your key target audience. Of course, you can always move things along by adding more communications tactics, AND by increasing their frequencies.
Right about now, the subject of progress reports will arise,but you will already be hard at work re-monitoring perceptions among your target audience members to test the effectiveness of your communications tactics. Using questions similar to those used during your earlier monitoring session, you’ll now be on sharp alert for signs that audience perceptions are beginning to move in your general direction. Throughout, keep your eye on the core of this approach: persuade your most important outside audiences with the greatest impacts on your organization to your way of thinking. Then move them to take actions that help your department, division or subsidiary prevail. Thus, instead of measuring the rather narrow results achieved by the tactical subsets of your public relations program like special events, brochures, broadcast plugs or press releases, you will have discovered the only true measure of public relations. The results of your strategic efforts to alter individual perception among your key outside audiences leading to changed behaviors, helping you achieve your managerial objectives.