If there’s enough money in the PR budget, be sure to use professional survey firms in the perception monitoring phases of your program. If not, you’re still fortunate because your PR people are also in the perception and behavior business and can pursue the same objective: identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, misconceptions and any other negative perception that might translate into hurtful behaviors.
It’s quite clear that setting just the right public relations goal allows you to deal effectively with the most serious problems you turned up during your key audience perception monitoring. Your new goal could call for straightening out that dangerous misconception, or correcting that inaccuracy, or neutralizing that fateful rumor.
At this point, take special care because you must now identify the right strategy, one that tells you how to move forward. Remember that there are just three strategic options available to you when it comes to handling a perception and opinion challenge. Change existing perception, create perception where there may be none, or reinforce it. Since the wrong strategy pick will taste like crumbled Gorganzola cheese on your bread pudding, be certain the new strategy fits comfortably with your new public relations goal. You don’t want to select “change” when the facts dictate a “reinforce” strategy.
Like it or not, a strong message is needed here, one aimed at members of your target audience. There is no doubt that crafting action-forcing language to persuade an audience to your way of thinking is very hard work. Which is why you need your strongest writer. S/he must create some very special, corrective language. Words that are not only compelling, persuasive and believable, but clear and factual if they are to correct something and shift perception/opinion towards your point of view leading to the behaviors you are targeting.
How are you going to carry your message to the attention of your target audience? With the communications tactics most likely to reach that group of people, of course. After you run the draft message by your PR people for impact and persuasiveness, you can choose from among dozens that are available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, personal meetings and many others. But be sure that the tactics you pick are known to reach folks just like your audience members.
Because we know that message credibility can depend on the credibility of the means used to deliver it, you may want to try it out before smaller meetings and presentations rather than using higher-profile news releases.
About now, talk of progress reports may be heard, and they are a signal that it’s time for you and your PR team to begin a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. Many of the same questions used used in thebenchmark session can be asked again. Now however, you will be watching carefully for signs that the problem perception is being altered in your direction.
Don’t forget that you can always speed up program momentum by adding more communications tactics and increasing their frequencies.
This template can be effective for most public relations challenges you face. When you successfully alter the perceptions of your key external stakeholders, in most cases moving their behaviors in your direction, you should soon enjoy the satisfaction of achieving your managerial objectives.