Public Relations Going O.K?

Yes?

Good!

Still, as a business, non-profit or association manager, if
you’re not getting the behavior changes you paid for, you’re
wasting your money.

Here’s why I say that. People act on their perception of the
facts, and those perceptions lead to certain behaviors. But
something can be done about those perceptions and behaviors
that leads to achieving your organization’s objectives.

Which means you really CAN establish the behavior change
you want, up front, then insist on getting that result before
you pronounce the public relations effort a success.

In other words, the way to increase your comfort level about
your public relations investment, is to make certain that
investment produces the behavior modification you said you
wanted at the beginning of the program.

That way, you KNOW you’re getting your money’s worth.

Just what, you may ask, does your public relations team
have to do to achieve that result?

Here’s one approach.

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, it will be especially helpful if
the public relations program is built upon the premise
mentioned above and, for emphasis, again here:

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 objectives.

Now, Rank Your External Audiences

Identifying key audiences and prioritizing them – a crucial
step in any public relations action plan — starts with a
priority-ranking of those audiences with a clear interest
in your organization, often described as “stakeholders” or
“publics.” Included would be customers, prospects, employees,
media, the business community and local thought-leaders as
well as any number of other interest groups.

Stay Aware

Those with the public relations assignment must stay aware
of negative or counterproductive behaviors among the
organization’s key stakeholders or “publics.”- customers,
prospects, media, community activists, union leaders, competitors
the business community and others.

Interaction of one kind or another with key audiences will
tell you how they feel – and how they perceive — your
organization, and in particular areas where problems may be
brewing. This is informal polling, but essential
to any public relations effort. If resources are available,
a limited opinion poll of the priority audience would be
helpful.

There are many ways to gather such information. For example,
regular monitoring of headquarters and field location media,
staff activity reports, employee and community feedback,
regulatory and other local, state and federal government activities
involving your organization. High on any such intelligence
list is the Internet with its emails, ezines, chatrooms and
search engines.

Identify the Behavior Modification Problem or Challenge

Now is the time to identify the behavior modification
problem such as declining sales in a specific product line.
Or, is it an allegation of wrongdoing? Or a quality or
performance issue? Has an elected official spoken negatively
about your industry? Have you learned that a national activist
group may target a unit of your organization? Or, is there
clear evidence of negative behavior among a key audience?

Similarly, a behavior modification challenge might include
creating positive, first time impressions of a new soft drink
during a new market introduction. Or reinforcing the
reputation of a category leader whose sales have begun to
slip.

Verify the Accuracy and Severity of the Problem

Is it true and how bad is it? Determine through field
staff, key customers, media monitoring and, if the budget
is there, opinion sampling, just how serious the problem
is. If an allegation, is it true or false? If a drop-off in
sales, gather and carefully evaluate the likely reasons.
If a quality issue, probe deeply for its real cause.

After an exhaustive review of all evidence surrounding the
behavioral problem, establish conclusively its size and shape.
Does it threaten employee or public safety, financial
stability, reputation, the organization’s mission, or sales?
The answers to these questions help determine the resources
to be assembled.

The Public Relations Goal

Simply stated: the goal is to begin the process of altering
public perception and, thus, behaviors, to a view consistent
with that held by your organization.

The Public Relations Strategy

Now, you must select one of three choices available to you
when you determine the public relations strategy. You can
create opinion where none exists, change existing opinion or
reinforce existing opinion.

Let’s assume that we will strive to change existing opinion
on the key issue. With your perception, behavior modification
goals and now, the strategy, established, progress will be
measured in terms of specific altered behaviors, i.e., floor
traffic returns to the showroom; activist rhetoric declines;
a low employee retention rate reverses. Such progress
indicators can be set down, and agreed upon, once the
negative perceptions are truly understood, thus establishing
the degree of behavioral change that realistically can be
expected.

A Persuasive message

What do we say? Well, we prepare persuasive messages designed
to inform, clarify, and impact individual perception in such
a way that individual behaviors flowing from those perceptions
are consistent with that desired by our organization. Bringing
important target audiences around to one’s way of thinking
really does depend heavily on the quality of the message
prepared.

The messages must contain clear evidence supporting your
organization’s views on the issue such as a credible
third-party endorsement of your position. Regular assessments
of how opinion is currently running among employees,
suppliers and community leaders should be made. Finally,
action-producing incentives leading individuals to change
their perceptions of the issue, thus altering their behaviors,
should be included in the message – incentives that testify
to the organization’s good intentions and veracity.

It’s Tactics Time

Now, you select the most effective communications tactics
available to you.

The question is, how will you reach your target audiences –
especially in various locations? You have many choices.
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 communications
tactics.

Reaching such audiences with the message through special
events is particularly effective. They offer news value and
include activities such as financial roadshows, awards
ceremonies, celebrity appearances, open houses and trade
conventions.

Your public relations effort can be accelerated, even
amplified by carefully selecting the very best tactics from
among print or broadcast media, key podium presentations,
special events or top-level personal contacts. When
these tools communicate with each target audience, they must
score direct bullseyes.

And remember that vital to the success of any action
program is the selection and perceived credibility of the
actual spokespeople who deliver the messages. They must
speak with authority and conviction if they are to be believed,
and if meaningful media coverage is to be achieved.

Action

While it’s pull-the-trigger time, you should insure that you
approach your target audiences with a tactical schedule
calculated to reach them consistently as well as through
varied media such as newspapers, radio and television
appearances, high-profile speeches, facility tours and
community briefings.

How are we Doing?

The key activity here is monitoring progress, seeking signs
of improvement in target audience perceptions and behaviors.

You and your colleagues should speak regularly with members
of each target audience, monitor print and broadcast media
for clear evidence of the organization’s messages or viewpoints
and regularly interact with key customers, prospects and
influential citizens.

Indicators that the messages are moving community opinion –
read perceptions and behaviors — in your organization’s
direction will start appearing. For example, indicators 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

You’ll know when you arrive at the public relations end game
because the changes in behaviors will become truly apparent —
among them, encouraging supplier and thought-leader comment,
increasingly upbeat employee and community feedback and
an increased pace of positive media reports.

Bottom line? The public relations program can be deemed a
success when you clearly meet the original behavior
modification goal you set when it all began.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box
in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website.
A copy would be appreciated at [email protected].

Robert A. Kelly © 2005.

Public Relations: How to Send the Message

Even the best businesses might have difficulty acquiring clients or growing a customer base if they are not able to get their business or service known to the public. A lot of time and knowledge needs to be invested into an ad campaign to make it a successful one. Knowing your target demographic, medium of advertising, and goal of the specific campaign is completely separate from knowing what it is that is being advertised. Luckily, the services of a public relations firm can take care of this for you.

An advertising and marketing firm is a group of individuals who are educated in the art of the sale. Given their years of education and experience on this subject, they know how to market whatever it is that you have to offer. This is especially important in today’s world with emerging technology. As of 2009, the Internet has become the number one source of advertising, accounting for 23.5% of all advertising dollars spent. Television is not far behind with 21.9%. With a good public relations team, you can count on wide and constant exposure. By tailoring your product to sites and services that are popular with who your customers are, you can expect exponentially more effective ads being placed. Internet marketing is effective because of its ability to target a specific segment of the population. If your company is for a snow removal service, your marketing efforts should focus on people who are looking for snow blowers and shovels. A public relations firm can place your ads strategically on sites that would attract your desired customers.

While the Internet has overtaken the lion’s share of the marketplace, you can expect the team you hire to do more than that. For local businesses especially, television might be the way to go. A well-placed cable commercial can make your business a household name. A public relations firm will take care of the production (filming and editing) of the ad segment itself, purchasing airtime, and monitoring where and when it is being aired. All of this remains the same for radio spots as well, as they can help produce and distribute these to local stations.

Beyond these main types of marketing, a firm that specializes in public relations will help with business exposure in more ways than you can even think of. Clothing, office supplies, and household items can be ordered with your name and logo on them. Again, it all goes back to knowing what makes sense for your individual needs. Without the help and expertise of a marketing team, your business and skill set will never get a chance to shine.

How Public Relations Can Boost Your Visibility, Reputation, and Sales

Building the reputation of your company should be one of your top priorities, even if your business is already successful. In an ever-changing economy, it is vital to keep in touch with your customer base so that they are always satisfied and always giving you their business rather than going to your competitors. To maintain this edge over the competition, a solid public relations firm can help.

A common misconception is that marketing and public relations are the same, and while they do very much go hand in hand, this is not true. PR focuses more on building relationships and upholding the company’s image, whereas marketing is in place to focus on the bottom line by studying what consumers want. There are three very specific audiences to whom you will want to gain visibility, and for each one, there are different methods for doing so.

Businesses
Going to trade shows, expos, and seminars on your company’s behalf can give your business visibility by allowing you to meet and network with other big names; at the same time, it’s an opportunity to do some market research on your competition. For example, an Atlanta based start-up business that is selling baby clothes can close a deal with major retailers like Babies R Us, which will allow their consumer base to extend to wherever Babies R Us stores are located. At the end of these conventions, it is important to follow up with people you met by sending out newsletters and making phone calls. Your small business marketing can benefit from the networking with people at trade shows.

Consumers
The Internet allows even the smallest companies to gain worldwide visibility through social networking and media relations. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow companies to be in direct touch with their consumers. This allows your company to respond to consumers on a personal level rather than with a generic form letter, and it can also help you to deal with negative publicity. For instance, if a product your Atlanta based business sells is deemed to be unsafe, you can address the problem directly and let your consumers know the steps you took to remedy the problem. This proactive behavior goes a long way in reversing negative publicity; in fact, most businesses have had to deal with it at one point or another in their media relations.

Your Worldwide Audience
While a successful business has a target audience, they should also be mindful of how they are perceived by the rest of the world so as not to alienate any potential consumers. Most businesses do this by giving back to their communities or engaging in programs that help the future. This can include scholarship programs, green initiatives, or volunteering for a good cause.

Good public relations should be in place for several reasons. First, it sends the sign to consumers and to the businesses you work with that they matter. Second, it helps to remove bad publicity when it arises. Unfortunately, bad publicity spreads much more quickly and can do much more damage overnight. Building a good reputation, of course, rarely happens overnight. Establishing a solid reputation for a worldwide audience is key in getting noticed and gaining success, and when you have a dependable advertising agency, it can help whenever the inevitable PR crisis comes along.