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Don't Waste Money on Public Relations
by Robert A. Kelly

Like it or not, people take action based on the facts they see before them. And that can create behaviors that impact your business, sometimes negatively.

So, in order to succeed in your business, you need to take steps to create, change or reinforce that key audience's opinion by reaching them, persuading them and moving them to take the actions you desire.

Does it work every time? No.

Is it easy? No.

Is it necessary? Yes.

I recommend working with a local public relations specialist because your work day probably leaves little time for this activity, and you may have minimal experience to bring to the party.

So, before hiring anyone, try out this notion on him or her.

What we know is that people will act on their own perception of the facts before them. And we know that those perceptions will lead to predictable behaviors, but about which something can be done. Then, when we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those folks whose behaviors affect your business, the public relations effort is a success.

If you're met with the equivalent of a blank stare, look elsewhere.

Once you find a compatible public relations person, let's roll! For openers, you'll earn his or her enduring support when you commit to take action when your information gathering turns up troubling perceptions among those target audiences.

First, try to be a regular speaker in your marketing area, an interviewee for radio and newspapers, a sponsor of special events and an active member of local business and fraternal clubs. You put "money in the good will bank" when you do this, against the day trouble breaks out.

Start by staying in touch with groups of people whose actions help or hinder your operations. What do they believe about your products and services and your organization itself? Stay alert to potential problems. This is the fact finding, information gathering phase.

Then list your key audiences. But, at first, just the ones whose actions REALLY concern you. Begin interacting with them. They can include stakeholders like customers, employees, prospects, media, community residents, local government agencies and many others.

Make a promise to yourself to take the following actions when you discover a troubling perception.

First, set down your public relations goal. Examples: neutralize that negative rumor; pacify that activist group; restore the faith of that group of former customers, or reinforce your prospects' interest in your product or service.

In any case, left unattended, each can hurt your business.

Next, HOW will you approach the perception problem? In other words, what is your strategy?

We know there are just three ways to deal with such an opinion problem. Create new opinion, change existing opinion, or reinforce it.

Decide which it is, and proceed. But work closely with your public relations advisor by preparing persuasive messages carefully and creditably designed to counter the misconception you have uncovered. Try out the messages on a few outsiders to see just how persuasive they really are.

Now, you must select the communications tactics – "beasts of burden," I call them – to carry your persuasive message to the eyes and ears of that crucially important target audience.

You have a huge choice of such communications tactics ranging from emails, press releases, media interviews and newsletters to personal meetings, speeches, open houses and dozens of others.

But your job is still not completed. You must continue to monitor members of your target audience to measure not only awareness of your message, but how well is it being received, and even did it get there in the first place?

Then, if necessary, adjust your message content and the communications tactics.

To recap, until something better comes along, we have little choice but to track perceptions among key audiences the best way we can. Then, create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose behaviors effect the organization.

Adopting this kind of sequence puts the odds in your favor that the money you spend on public relations will not be wasted.

Related Articles:

How To Get Your Public Relations Money's Worth
There are only three ways a public relations effort can impact behavior: create opinion where it doesn't exist, reinforce existing opinion or change that opinion. No surprise that the process by which those goals are realized is known as public relations.

Let's Blow The Lid Off Public Relations
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.

The PR Commitment to Small Business
Sometimes I wonder about those small businesses that ignore the perceptions and behaviors of the key audiences with the most immediate impact on their businesses – the very people who hold the future of that small business in their hands!

Small Business Failure? Nuts!
A large part of your small business’ success is somewhere else. Namely, out among the company’s important external audiences. How they perceive you, and what they believe about you and your business, directly affect your chances of success.

Robert A. Kelly © 2003.

Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks about the fundamental premise of public relations. He has been DPR, Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press secretary, The White House. Visit:

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