Don’t need no stinking PR?

Almost assuredly you do, especially when your most important external and internal audiences behave in ways that stop you from achieving your organizational objectives.

With that attitude, you could have a long wait before you see community leaders strengthening their bonds with you; customers making repeat purchases; unions bargaining more frequently in good faith; prospects becoming customers; employees beginning to value their jobs; political leaders and legislators starting to think of you as a key player in the business community, and suppliers working hard to expand your relationship.

Lighten up and use public relations in your own best interest, and benefit from a really cost-effective assist to your business, non-profit or association.

And there’s another reason to do so. Tough times require tough tactics. Luckily, PR firepower can do for you what it was meant to do – help you achieve your operating objectives by moving those people whose behaviors have the greatest impact on your organization, to actions YOU desire,

You know it’s worth it, so give it a shot!

Best place to start is by listing your most important audiences, or “publics,” and ranking them according to the impact they have on your enterprise. Let’s work on the outside audience at the top of that list.

How aware are you and your colleagues as to how that audience views you? Could there be negative perceptions out there that, inevitably, will morph into behaviors that hurt your organization?

You really can’t afford to ignore that possibility.

So get out there and interact with members of that target audience and ask questions. The alternative is to spend a LOT of money on a professional survey. Instead, make the time commitment to do some home-grown research. After all, PR best practice says you should be in regular touch with target audience members anyway, so this interaction is probably long overdue.

Ask questions like “Do you know anything about us? Have you heard anything good or bad about us?” Stay alert to hesitant and evasive responses. Notice any negative undertones? Do inaccuracies crop up? Any misconceptions or rumors that need your attention?

The answers you gather are the fodder for your new public relations goal – i.e., the specific perception to be altered, followed by the behavior change you want.

Which requires that you set a public relations goal aimed at clearing up that misconception or nameless concern, correcting that inaccuracy or untrue belief, or disarming that rumor for good.

Now, what happens to that goal? You select a strategy to get you where you want to be. The choices are few indeed when it comes to perception and opinion. You can create perception where there isn’t any, change existing perception, or reinforce it. That’s it. You should, however, match your strategy selection to your newly-established public relations goal.

Clearly, the most sensitive, even difficult step in this problem- solving sequence is message preparation. At ther same time, it’s your opportunity to write something that will change somebody’s opinion, and that is a really satisfying experience.

First, your message must stick to its knitting and not ramble. Address the inaccuracy, misconception, untruth or rumor clearly and in a believable and as compelling a manner as possible. Remember what it must do if the public relations program is to be successful – alter, change or reinforce what a lot of people believe. And that is a big job and a big responsibility.

If the message is the bullet, your “beasts of burden” are the gun, the means by which your communications tactics carry your message to the eyes and ears of members of the target audience.

And what a list of tactics offer themselves to you. Everything from open houses, feature articles, press releases and speeches to personal contacts, broadcast appearances, newspaper interviews and so many more.

Your measuring stick for each tactic is, does it have a proven track record for reaching people like those who make up your target audience?

So, you will get antsy and wonder if you’re making any headway with your new public relations program. Best way to tell is to monitor target audience perceptions all over again. Use questions similar to your first monitoring session.

Big difference this time, however. Now, you need to see indications that perceptions are being altered as a result of your corrective message.

If you want to speed things up, you can always add a few more tactics to the mix, AND increase some of their frequencies. The message should also be re-evaluated for the strength and persuasiveness of its underlying facts, as well as impact and clarity.

Yes, you may believe you “don’t need no stinking PR,” but there’s no denying that people in your area behave like everyone else – they take actions based on their perception of the facts they hear about you and your operation. So, you must deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by doing what is necessary to reach them.

And what that means is, in your own best interest, you must persuade many of your stakeholders to your way of thinking, thus moving them to take actions that lead to the success of your organization.

About the author
Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks to general management personnel about the fundamental premise of public relations. 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. Visit: