Thursday, May 31, 2007

Let’s start out with a caution

Let’s start out with a caution for business, non-profit and association managers: the premise of public relations implies that the work you do BEFORE you use PR tactics, such as press releases, brochures and broadcast interviews, will determine the success of your public relations effort.

Reason is, if you are one of those managers, the PR plan that flows from that premise will call for achieving your managerial objectives by altering perception leading to changed behaviors among those important external audiences that MOST affect your department, group, division or subsidiary.

Here, read that public relations premise for yourself. 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 usually accomplished.

Of all the things the premise tells you about public relations, the most basic may be that you need to do some serious planning early-on about the behaviors of those vital outside audiences rather than exploding right out-of-the-gate with a tactical broadside.

For example, you don’t want to move prematurely into press releases, talk show appearances, zippy publications and fun-filled special events before you get answers to questions like these: Who are you trying to reach? What do you know about them? How do they perceive your organization? If troublesome, how might we alter their perceptions? And perhaps MOST important, what behaviors do we want those perceptions to lead to?

That is a critical planning concern because the people with whom you interact every day behave like everyone else – they act upon their perceptions of the facts they hear about you and your operation. And that means you should deal effectively with those perceptions (and their follow-on behaviors) by doing what is necessary to reach and move those key external audiences to action.

Once the preliminary public relations planning is complete, you can look forward to PR results such as rising membership applications; customers making repeat purchases; new approaches by capital givers and specifying sources; community leaders beginning to seek you out; fresh proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures; prospects starting to do business with you; welcome bounces in show room visits, not to mention politicians and legislators viewing you as a key member of the business, non-profit or association communities.

But who will do this specialized kind of work? An outside PR agency team? Folks assigned to your operation? Your own public relations people? Regardless of where they come from, they need to be committed to you and your PR plan beginning with key audience perception monitoring.

Are the folks assigned to you really serious about knowing how your most important outside audiences perceive your operations, products or services? Do they really accept the truth that perceptions almost always lead to behaviors that can help or hurt your operation?

Take the time to review with them in detail how you plan to monitor and gather perceptions by questioning members of your most important outside audiences. For instance, how much do you know about our chief executive? Have you had prior contact with us and were you pleased with the interchange? How much do you know about our services or products and employees? Have you experienced problems with our people or procedures?

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