Public Relations: Converting the Non-Believers

What’s the real reason some managers shy away from public … I believe it’s because they don’t … or believe, the direct … between what public … is capable of deliver

What’s the real reason some managers shy away from public
relations? I believe it’s because they don’t understand,Public Relations: Converting the Non-Believers Articles or
believe, the direct connection between what public relations
is capable of delivering and their need to achieve specific
business objectives.

It’s lost opportunity of the worst kind. And a shame, because
the reason we do public relations in the first place is to
change the behaviors of certain groups of people important
to the success of those very Doubting Thomas managers.

First, I would say to them, surely, it’s not that difficult a
concept to understand or accept. 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 your organization’s objectives.

Better yet, you can establish the degree of behavior change
you want, up front, then insist on getting that result before
you pronounce the public relations effort a success.

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

Here’s another approach. 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’s pure success when you meet that goal.

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.

But, as Doubting Thomases you might ask, are we
really qualified to do that job?

I think yes, because everything we do is based on the same
realities — people act on their perception of the facts, and
we can do something about those perceptions. And when public
relations activity successfully creates, changes or reinforces
that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-action
those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the
public relations effort is a success.

It works this way in practice.

o you may wish to encourage a certain audience to sample
your soft drink brand’s great taste and refreshing flavor,
in the process creating perceptions of value, then new sales.

o or you may want people to perceive your organization
more positively, thus strengthening its reputation.

o it could be as simple as communicating a company’s
strengths to a target audience leading them to a positive
perception of the firm, in turn leading to new investments
in the company’s shares.

I know, Mr. or Ms. Manager, that you are not primarily
interested in our ability to communicate, paint images or
schmooz with the media. Nor are you especially fascinated
with our efforts to identify target audiences, set public
relations goals and strategies, write persuasive messages and
select communications tactics.

What I believe you DO want is a change in the behaviors
of certain key audiences leading directly to the
achievement of your business objectives.

Which is why we continually stress that quality planning,
and the degree of behavioral change it produces, defines
the success or failure of a public relations program.

Done correctly, when public relations results in modified
behaviors among groups of people important to an organization,
we could be talking about nothing less than its survival.

So, for your organization, Ms. Manager, that means
public relations professionals must modify somebody’s
behavior if they are to help hit your objective and earn a
paycheck – I believe everything else is a means to that end.

O.K., Mr. Manager, let’s look at how public relations might
work for you out on the ground. We’ll use the example of a
national marketer of furniture imported from the Far East.
First, we identify the key operating problem to be addressed.
Let’s say we receive news reports and other input, amplified
by competitive trouble-making out in the trade, about rumors
circulating to the effect that serious quality problems have
cropped up in the company’s factories in Southeast Asia.

Here, we verify whether the allegation is true or false.
So, because the company’s sales have leveled off and are
starting to decline, public relations counsel and staff, working
closely with the company’s manufacturing people here and
abroad, establish conclusively that rumors of declining quality
are without foundation, and simply untrue.

But, even though the rumors are not true, we still want to
verify the status of both consumer and trade PERCEPTIONS
of the company’s product quality.

But, surprise! Probing consumer opinion through personal
contact and informal polling out in the market place, counsel
and staff determine that, in fact, there really IS a
disturbing perception out there that the company’s furniture
line is “of low quality and overpriced.”

It’s useful to make the point here, Ms. Manager, that public
relations problems are nearly always defined by what people
think about the facts, as opposed to the actual truth of the

Moving on, we establish the public relations goal: alter the
public perception of the company’s furniture quality. This
will lead to positive consumer behavioral changes, in turn
resulting in furniture buyers returning to company showrooms
once again.

Now we determine the public relations strategy. We only have
three choices: CREATE opinion where none exists, CHANGE
existing opinion, or REINFORCE that existing opinion. Because
existing opinion has turned negative on the quality of the
company’s furniture, the public relations strategy will be to
begin the process of CHANGING that opinion from negative to

Here, we identify key audiences. In this case,
at the top of the list is the furniture-buying public –
customers and prospects – as well as the trade and business
communities, employees, local thought-leaders and media in
the company’s retail outlet locations, and a number of other
possible stakeholder groups.