Use every weapon you have

One of the strongest weapons available allows business, non-profit and association managers to begin changing the behaviors of their key external audiences in ways that lead directly to achieving their primary operating objectives.

The name of that weapon? The fundamental premise of public relations: 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.

In short, people in your operating areas really do behave like everyone else – they take actions based on their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your organization.

So, you need to deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by using every weapon at your disposal to reach them with the right message. Your job is to persuade your stakeholders to your way of thinking and move them to take actions that lead to the success of your organization.

Here are typical behavior changes you might aim for. More frequent repeat purchases; increased membership applications or contributions; more prospects sniffing around; suppliers working harder than ever to expand their relationship with you, and elected officials starting to count you among the movers and shakers whose opinions they need to start taking seriously.

This public relations action checklist can help you make it happen: You need to list your outside audiences and prioritize them by the severity of their impacts on your organization.

Then, monitor the perceptions of members of the key target audience by interacting with them and asking lots of questions. Other important outside audiences will need similar attention.

Use the data you collect to establish your public relations goal. For example, correct that inaccuracy, clarify that misconception or spike that damaging rumor.

To reach that goal, you need a strategy to show you how to get there. Select from three: change existing perception, create perception/opinion where none exists, or reinforce existing perception. And make certain the strategy you select fits your public relations goal.

Now, you must prepare a message designed to alter perception among members of that target audience. It must be crystal-clear about what it intends to correct, clarify or change, and it must be persuasive and compelling – all at the same time! Above all, as your message makes the case for your point of view, it must be believable.

A daunting assignment for sure – alter what a lot of people have come to believe. It’s a big job, but worth the effort.

Now, you must deliver your message to the eyes and ears of members of that key target audience. And communications tactics will help you do it. The choice is broad and includes tactics such as customer or member briefings, brochures, press releases and radio/newspaper interviews as well as newsletters, speeches, facility tours and many more.

Just be sure that the tactics you choose, have a proven record of reaching people like the members of your audience.

How will you know if you’re making any headway? By re-monitoring perceptions among, and asking more questions of those same audience members. This time, however, you watch closely for clear evidence that perceptions are being altered as you planned.

You can always speed things up by using additional communications tactics, and by increasing their frequencies.

Remember that you are using one of the strongest weapons available to any business, non-profit or association. Namely, the process for changing behaviors of their key external audiences in ways that lead directly to achieving their primary operating objectives.

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: