by Robert A. Kelly
Do you worry about certain behaviors among your most important audiences because those
behaviors are vital to achieving your objectives? If your answer is yes, you need
The payoff? When those audiences do what you want
them to do, achieving your organizational objectives gets
a lot easier. That's why this article is all about how to
make welcome, key-audience behavior a regular occurrence.
Some of us learned long ago that people act on their own
perceptions of the facts, leading to predictable behaviors
about which something can be done. We call all those
perceptions opinion…public opinion.
So, public relations tries to create, change or reinforce that
opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action
the very people whose behaviors affect your organization.
Oh, those painful behaviors.
Negative perceptions almost always lead to unhappy
behaviors such as loud complaints about slipshod association
communications, cancelled reservations due to a motel chain's
housekeeping mismanagement, or falling sales because of a
fast food product's poor taste.
What to do About Them
How can any business prepare itself to deal effectively with
such key-audience, opinion challenges?
Well, because public relations problems are usually defined by
what people THINK about a set of facts, as opposed to the
actual truth of the matter, one would be well-advised to focus
on three realities:
1. People act on their perception of the facts;
2. Those perceptions lead to certain behaviors;
3. Something can be done about those perceptions and behaviors that leads to achieving the organization's
First, what's the Problem?
Identify the key operating problem. Is it declining
sales in a specific product line or location? Is it an
allegation of wrongdoing? Is it a quality or performance
issue? Has an elected official spoken negatively about your
industry? Have you learned that a national activist group
may target your business? Or, is there simply clear
evidence of negative behaviors among your key audiences?
Set the public relations goal.
Let's say there's a perception that you lost a key customer
which concerns your workers. That gives you some hiring and
retention problems, and it also worries your suppliers and
some community leaders. Since it isn't true, you set the
following public relations goal:
Change the negative perceptions of the company's
customer longevity from negative to positive,
thus correcting the hiring and retention problems and
calming supplier and community concerns.
What about the public relations strategy?
Now, you must select one of three choices available to you
when selecting a proper strategy. In this example, you are
choosing to CHANGE existing opinion rather than
CREATE opinion where none exists, or REINFORCE an
existing opinion, neither of which are applicable to this case.
With your perception and behavior modification goals, and
now the strategy set down, progress will be measured in
terms of reduced employee departures, a satisfactory increase
in the company's employee retention rate as well as reassured
suppliers and community leaders.
But who do we talk to?
Identifying key audiences and prioritizing them – crucial
steps in any public relations action planning – were identified
early on in this example as employees, suppliers and the
community-at-large and its leaders, in that priority order.
And what do we say?
The messages must disarm the rumor with clear evidence such
as plain talk by the boss possibly speaking before a town meeting
in the event turmoil increases. It might be smart to seek a public
endorsement by a believable third-party. It could even be
reassurance by the "large customer" himself, or herself, that
"we have no intention of switching suppliers as long as the
company continues to provide the same superior quality, service
and pricing it now does."
It's Tactics Time
Now, you select the most effective communications tactics
available to you, and kickoff your action plan.
How will your target audiences actually be reached? Choices
include face-to-face meetings, email, hand-placed feature
articles and broadcast appearances, special employee, supplier
or community briefings, news releases, announcement
luncheons, onsite media interviews, facility tours, promotional
contests, brochures and a host of other carefully targeted
So, how are we doing?
Signs that your messages are moving employee, supplier
and community opinion in your direction will begin showing
up. Signs like comments in community meetings, local
newspaper editorials, e-mails from suppliers as well as public
references by political figures and local celebrities.
The End Game
By this time, your action program should begin to attract
the sort of employee, supplier and community understanding
that leads to the behavior shifts you want – namely, the
unsettling rumor has been disarmed and operations are
returning to normal.
You know you've arrived at the public relations end game
when the changes in behaviors become really apparent through
supportive media reports, positive supplier
and thought-leader comment, and increasingly upbeat employee
and community chatter.
In the end, a sound strategy using high-impact tactics helps
achieve program success – perceptions that have been altered
leading to behaviors that have been modified, and another win
for public relations.
Doubt PR's Clout? Don't!
Done right, PR helps modify the behaviors of your most important target audiences, and that can spell S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L.
The Increasing Power of Publicity...and how it can benefit your business
Publicity placements have
always been a cost-efficient way to market a product/business and generate
clients or customers. But because of lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding
of what publicity is and does, many entrepreneurs don't take full advantage
of publicity opportunities. That can lead to missed marketing chances.
Successful Small Businesses Use PR
Are you ready to follow the winners and get public relations working for your small business?
The payoff can be significant – key audience behaviors that directly support your business objectives and make the difference between failure and success.