Managers and PR genius

The real public relations geniuses might be managers. You know, managers who pursue their objectives by reaching, persuading and moving those outside audiences whose behavior most affect their organizations, to actions those managers desire.

Their “secret” is probably a PR blueprint something like this one: 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.

What a PR blueprint like this gives YOU, a business, non-profit or association manager, are the tools you need to persuade your important external stakeholders to your way of thinking. Then, hopefully, move them to take actions that lead to your success.

Best part is, the public relations people assigned to your department, division or subsidiary can run the program for you if, that’s IF, you as the unit manager stay involved and participate in key decisions along the way.

First concern? In all probability, your PR staff will need to shift its attention from simple communications tactics to the more aggressive fundamental concept of public relations, and its action blueprint, mentioned above.

It’s worth the effort because the payoff for you will be target audience behaviors like these: boosts in repeat purchases, or higher contribution and membership application rates, or new waves of interested prospects.

Sit down with the PR folks who work for your unit and explain the need to list, in priority order, those key outside audiences. And discuss the importance of learning how the organization is perceived by members of those audiences. In particular because perceptions almost always lead to predictable behaviors, and that, of course, is what will soon concern you the most.

To probe those target audience perceptions, you and your staff must interact with members of that key external audience and ask a variety of questions. For example, “Do you know anything about us? Have you had dealings with us? Was there ever a problem with a transaction?

During these perception monitoring sessions, stay alert for negativity. Was there a glaring inaccuracy that popped up repeatedly? Any false assumptions about your services or products? Did you notice misconceptions, rumors or clearly negative attitudes? And watch especially for evasive or hesitant responses.

The data you gather from these perception monitoring interviews allow you to establish your public relations goal. You must decide to focus on correcting a dangerous inaccuracy or clarifying a troublesome misconception.

As a manager, you know that goals are achieved using the right strategy. In the case of perception and opinion matters, there are just three workable strategies available to you: reinforce existing perception/opinion, create perception where there may be none, or change existing opinion. Only caveat: be sure your chosen strategy fits well with the public relations goal you have established.

Now your PR people must prepare the message that will alter perception among members of your target audience. As the unit manager, your personal input will be required to insure that it is both persuasive and compelling. As well, the message must be clearly written, and well supported with facts if it is to be believable as it strives to alter perception in your direction.

Delivering your message is not a complex task and your PR folks will help select the proper communications tactics to get the job done. Luckily for all concerned, there is a full menu of such tactics from special events, news announcements, print and broadcast interviews and brochures to newsletters, speeches, emails and many others.

To satisfy all concerned that the effort to alter an offending perception is really working, you must re-monitor the perceptions of members of your external target audience

This go-around, however, will see all members of the public relations team on the lookout for clear-cut signs that the negative perception is actually being altered according to plan.

You should also be aware that matters can be accelerated by adding new communications tactics to the effort, AND/OR by increasing their frequencies, as appropriate.

If genius is too strong a descriptive for managers who apply this public relations blueprint, let us at least observe that it allows them a degree of success in achieving their unit objectives they did not previously enjoy.

About the author
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. Visit: