Do it by restructuring your business, non-profit or association public relations program so that it delivers the stakeholder behavior changes you want. Changes that lead directly to achieving your objectives.
A good first step is to base the restructure on a reality 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.
Then, if you haven’t done so already, think about your important outside audiences and how their behaviors can help or hinder your organization. List them in order of damage severity, and let’s talk about #1 on the roster.
Obviously, before you decide how to deal with external audience perceptions and, thus, behaviors, it makes sense to find out what members of that target audience really think about your organization.
If you are not equipped with a budget to pay for professional survey work, you and your colleagues,have little choice but to interact with audience members and that means using penetrating questions – “What do you think of us? How much do you know about us? Have you ever had contact with our people? If so, was it a positive experience?” Stay alert to negativities, and watch closely for inaccuracies, misconceptions, and exaggerations.
The data you gather from such monitoring activity let’s you identify the most severe perception problem, then establish it as your corrective public relations goal. Which allows you to straighten out that misconception, correct that inaccuracy or deflate that exaggeration.
Your goal isn’t worth much by itself. It needs a buddy, and that buddy is a strategy that shows you what you must do to achieve the goal. Luckily, there are only three strategies to choose from when it comes to perceptions and opinions. Reinforce existing opinion, change it, or create perception where none exists. Here, by the way, you must take care that your chosen strategy fits naturally with your new goal.
Writing the message – especially one burdened with the job of altering perception – is never an easy job. In other words, it must change the opinion of a key target audience and that can be a challenging writing assignment.
All at the same time, the message must be persuasive and compelling. And to do that, it must be clear about what is to be altered and why. It must be truthful, of course, and believable if it is to move target audience perception towards your view. On occasion, you may wish to avoid the showcase effect of a separate news release leading you to either piggyback your message on another operating announcement, or deliver it live at one of your newsmaker special events or media interviews.
Since the message will do very little simply looking back at you from the word processor, you must round up your “beasts of burden” to carry your message to the right eyes and ears among your target audience. These are communications tactics and there are scores of them ready to help. They range from emails, speeches, and press releases to radio/newspaper interviews, newsletters, facility tours and many more. Only caution here is, make certain any communications tactics you use come with proof that they reaches folks similar to those in your target audience.
Questions will soon be raised as to whether your public relations effort is succeeding. Which will send you and your colleagues back into the field to question your target audience members once again.
Only this time, you’re on the lookout for change in the form of perceptions altered, and opinions modified in your direction, as you planned.
It’s also comforting to know that a lagging effort can be accelerated, and its impact increased, by adding more communications tactics to the mix. Further, their frequencies can be bumped up as well.
All of which increases the chances you will succeed in changing the behaviors of your key external audiences. Behavior change that you want and need, and that leads directly to achieving your primary operating objectives.
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. mailto:bobkelly@TNI.net. Visit: http://www.prcommentary.com