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Do You Really Care What People Think?
by Robert A. Kelly

You had better care! Because what people think usually leads to predictable behaviors that can really affect your organization for better or worse.

Look at your employees. If they believe you really don’t care about them, your organization’s productivity can take a nose dive.

And what about customers? They had better remain convinced of the value of your products and services or off they go to a competitor.

Even prospects constantly need to be made aware of your product and service values or you’ll never get them as customers in the first place.

And seriously caring what key groups of people think about your organization doesn’t stop there.

You’ll have trouble hiring and keeping employees if area residents don’t see your business as a good place to work.

Same with minorities if, true or false, the idea takes hold that you discriminate in your hiring practices.

And don’t forget the need to be above board with journalists covering your business. A suspicious reporter can create what you’ll certainly view as “bad press.”

While we’ve talked briefly about a half dozen of your key “publics,” there are certainly others that need your attention.

That’s why the care and feeding of your most important external audiences can easily turn into a full-time job when you stop and think about the impacts they can have on your sales and profits.

O.K., so you can’t afford full-time public relations help, but is it hopeless?

Not at all because there are several actions you can and should take to address this challenge. It will require a chunk of time to implement, but isn’t it worth it?

First, list the top five or six audiences that could keep you awake at night.

Clearly, the top priority is to stay aware of how they perceive your enterprise. And that translates into speaking regularly with members of each group – customers, employees, area residents, reporters, prospects – and LISTENING for any problem areas.

Of course, in your own best interests, you should be a regular speaker at area podiums and a willing interviewee when local or trade media want to ask you questions. By doing so, you “ventilate” matters and lessen the impact of future “bumps in the road” when they inevitably occur.

So, when problems ARE identified, corrective actions should be put in place. And when it’s time to take those actions, you need a two-part strategy: one, a clear, truthful message written to persuade that audience and, two, effective communications that will actually reach that audience.

Communications tactics may range from media interviews, open houses, facility tours and plain, old meetings to promotional events and news releases.

It’s important to track progress if you ever hope to know whether your efforts are changing minds. Most important, do you appear to have successfully addressed the problem areas that came up in your initial information gathering among those key audiences?

And that means more of the same – personal meetings with customers, prospects, employees, area residents, reporters and other so-called “thought-leaders.”

What people think is really key to the success of your organization because, like it or not, people act on their perception of the facts before them and that leads to certain behaviors. Because something can be done about those behaviors, this article outlines how you can address any problem areas BEFORE they negatively affect your business.

Remember, if you leave those problems unattended for very long, you may be trifling with your own survival. How much better to deal promptly and effectively with questionable perceptions and encourage behaviors that insure the success of your business.

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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.  www.prcommentary.com

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