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How to Hit the Public Relations Bullseye (the first time)

So, what IS a public ... ... The public ... must modify ... behavior if he or she isto hit that bullseye and earn a paycheck – ... else is a means to that e

So, what IS a public relations bullseye? The public relations
professional must modify somebody’s behavior if he or she is
to hit that bullseye and earn a paycheck – everything else
is a means to that end.

Here’s why. In public relations, a bullseye can mean survival
when it successfully changes the perceptions and, hence, the
behaviors of certain groups of people important to the success
of the organization. In other words, when those changes
clearly meet the original behavior modification goal set
at the beginning of the program, the public relations effort
is successful and scores the bullseye.

But, is public relations really equipped to do that? Yes, because
its roots are planted deeply in the principle that people act
on their own perceptions of the facts. When public relations
successfully creates, changes or reinforces public opinion by
reaching, persuading and moving-to-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization, it accomplishes its
mission – a bullseye!

How it works.

1) The public relations effort should be focused on the three
realities alluded to above:
0 People act on their perception of the facts;
0 Perceptions lead to behaviors;
0 Something can be done about those perceptions and
behaviors that leads to achieving the organization’s
operating objectives.

2) Identify the key operating problem to be addressed.

One example could be a national marketer of furniture imported
from the Far East. News reports and other input, amplified by
competitive trouble-making out in the trade, suggest there
are quality problems in the company’s factories in Southeast

3) Verify truth or falsity of the allegations.

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 reports and rumors of declining
quality are without foundation, and simply untrue.

4) Verify status of both consumer and trade perceptions
of the company’s product quality.

Probing consumer opinion through personal contact and informal
polling out in the market place, counsel and staff determine
that, in fact, there IS a disturbing perception that the
company’s furniture line is “of low quality and not worth the
prices asked.”

It is useful to recall here that public relations problems
are often defined by what people think about a set of facts,
as opposed to the actual truth of the matter. Here, it is
clear that negative trade and consumer perceptions about
the company’s products, however inaccurate they may be,
account for the decline in showroom traffic and sales, and must be confronted.

5) Establish the public relations goal.

The goal is to begin the process of changing public perception
of the company’s furniture quality from negative to positive,
leading to consumer behavioral changes, in turn attracting
furniture buyers to company showrooms once again.

6) Determine the public relations strategy

Will it be to CREATE opinion where none exists, CHANGE
existing opinion, or REINFORCE that existing opinion? In this
case, it is clear that considerable existing opinion has
turned negative on the quality of the company’s furniture,
so the public relations strategy will be to CHANGE that
opinion from negative to positive.

7) Establish the perception and modification goals.

Goals here will be measured in terms of customers returning
to the showrooms, along with increasing sales, in the first
three to six months following the program’s kickoff, which
obviously will require considerable communications firepower
to achieve. Once the negative perceptions are truly understood,
such a marker can be set down, and agreed upon, establishing
the degree of behavioral change that realistically can be

8) Identify the key audiences

Public relations counsel and staff start with a priority-
ranking of those audiences with a clear interest in the
organization, often referred to as “stakeholders” or “publics.”
In this case, at the top of the list is the furniture-buying
public – prospects and customers – 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.

9) Prepare persuasive messages.

Bringing those important target audiences around to one’s way
of thinking depends heavily on the quality of the message
prepared for each of them.

It’s not easy. The messages must disarm the rumors with clear
evidence of excellent design and construction quality, and
seconded by credible third-party endorsements such as
satisfied customers and top design consultants. They will
impart a sense of credibility to the company’s statements.
Regular assessments of how opinion is currently running
among target groups must be performed, constantly adjusting
the message and, finally, action-producing incentives for
individuals to take the desired actions must be identified
and built into each message.

Those incentives might include the very strength of the
company’s forthright position on the quality issue, plans
for expansion that hold the promise of more jobs and taxes,
or sponsorship of new furniture design shows on local
cable channels.

10) Select the most effective communications tactics
and commence action

How will target audiences in the various company locations
actually be reached? Choices include face-to-face meetings,
hand-placed feature articles and broadcast appearances,
special consumer briefings, news releases, announcement
luncheons, onsite media interviews, facility tours,
promotional contests, brochures and a variety of other
communications tactics.

Special events are especially effective in reaching target
audiences with the message. They are newsworthy by definition
and include activities such as financial roadshows, awards
ceremonies, trade conventions, celebrity appearances and open

The effort can be accelerated, even amplified by carefully
selecting the most efficient tactics such as print or broadcast
media, key podium presentations or top-level personal
contacts because, when these tools communicate with each
target audience, they must score direct bullseyes.

Equally important to the success of the action program will
be the selection and perceived credibility of the actual
spokespeople who deliver the messages. They must speak with
authority and conviction if meaningful media coverage is to
be achieved.

11) Monitor progress and seek signs of improvement

Public relations counsel and staff must speak regularly with
members of each target audience, monitor print and broadcast
media for evidence of the company’s messages or viewpoints,
and conduct a variety of interactions with key customers,
prospects and influentials.

Indicators that the messages are moving opinion in the
company’s direction will start appearing. Indicators like
comments in community business meetings, local newspaper
editorials, e-mails from members of target audiences as well
as public references by political figures and local celebrities.

Now, the action program should begin to gain and
hold the kind of public understanding and acceptance that
will lead to the desired shift in public behavior. Executed
correctly – especially against the reality of plunging
sales -- we’re talking about nothing less than the
organization’s survival.

12) And the end-game?

When the changes in behaviors become truly apparent through
increased showroom traffic, media reports, thought-leader
comment, employee and community chatter and a variety of
other feedback – in other words, clearly meeting the original
behavior modification goal -- the public relations program
can be deemed a success.

In the end, a sound strategy combined with effective tactics
leads directly to the bottom line – altered perceptions,
modified behaviorsArticle Search, a happy CEO and a public relations bullseye.


Source: Free Articles from


Bob Kelly, public relations consultant, was director of public
relations for Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-Public Relations, Texaco Inc.;
VP-Public Relations, Olin Corp.; VP-Public Relations, Newport
News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications,
U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press
secretary, The White House.

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