Let’s Blow The Lid Off Public Relations

And show it for what it is – a humdinger of a strategy
machine using cutting-edge communications tactics that
lead directly to program success. And all because
perceptions were altered, behaviors modified and the
employer/client satisfied with the end result.

When everybody benefits like that, blowing the lid off
public relations is not only justified, it’s necessary!

Do you take the core strengths of public relations into
account as you manage those communications tactics?

Because if you don’t, you’re missing the sweet-spot of
public relations. The communications tactics you use
must work together to create the behavioral change you
want in certain groups of people important to the success
of your business.

But NO organization – business, non-profit, association
or public sector – can succeed today unless the behaviors
of its most important audiences are in-sync with the
organization’s objectives.

For your operation, that means public relations professionals
must modify somebody’s behavior if they are to help hit your
objective – all else are means to that end.

Which is why, when public relations goes on to successfully
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization, it accomplishes its mission.

How can we be so certain? Question: how can you measure
the results of an activity more accurately than when you
clearly achieve the goal you set at the beginning of that
activity? You can’t. It defines success.

Public relations is no different. The client/employer wants
our help in altering counterproductive perceptions among
key audiences which almost always change behaviors in a
way that helps him or her get to where they want to be.

Now, to achieve that goal, public relations practitioners
must be skilled in many tactical disciplines. Everything
from media relations, public speaking and a dozen kinds
of writing to financial communications, special events,
issue tracking and crisis management, to name just a few.

But too often, the employer/client’s tendency is to see little
beyond a tactic’s immediate impact. For example, a speech
and how it was received, a news release and how it was
picked up and presented in a newspaper or on TV, or a
special event and the audience’s reaction.

Of course those concerns are understandable and shouldn’t be
lightly dismissed. But the question also must be asked, to
what end are we applying those tactics?

Well, WHY do we employ public relations tactics anyway?
Could it be for the pure pleasure of doing surveys, making
speeches or editing company magazines? Not likely. We
employ public relations so that, at the end of the day,
somebody’s behavior gets modified.

That leads us directly to the core strength of public relations:
people act on their perception of the facts; those perceptions
lead to certain behaviors; and something can be done about
those perceptions and behaviors that leads to achieving an
organization’s objectives.

To assess those behavior changes and, thus, the degree of
success the core public relations program has achieved, look
for evidence that your tactics have actually changed behavior.
Signs should begin showing up via Internet chatter, in print
and broadcast news coverage, reports from the field, letters-to-
the-editor, consumer and customer reactions, shareholder
letters and comments from community leaders.

Consider doing informal polls of employees, retirees,
industrial neighbors and local businesses as well as collecting
feedback from suppliers, elected officials, union leaders and
government agencies.

The point of this article is that the core strength of public
relations places a special burden on each tactic selected to
carry the message to a target audience: does it/will it make
a tangible, action-producing contribution towards altering
target audience perceptions and behaviors? If not, it should be
dropped and replaced with a tactic that does.

That way, only the strongest tactics will be used allowing public
relations to apply its core strength to the challenge at hand:
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization.

What do I believe the employer/client wants from us? I
believe s/he wants us to use our expertise in a way that helps
achieve his or her business objectives. But regardless of what
strategic plan we create to solve a problem, regardless of what
tactical program we put in place, when all is said and done, we
must modify somebody’s behavior if we are to earn our keep.

So, not one, not two, but three benefits result when the behavioral
changes become apparent, and meet the program’s original
behavior modification goal: First and most important, the public
relations effort is a success.

Second, by achieving the behavioral goal you set at the beginning,
you are taking advantage of a dependable and accurate public relations
performance measurement.

Finally, when the “reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action”
efforts produce a visible, and desired modification in the behaviors
of those people you wish to influence, you are using public relations’
core strength to its full benefit.

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.