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The Truth About Public Relations

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, ... offline ... or website. A copy would be ... at ... Net word count is 825 ... gu

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your
ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would
be appreciated at Net word count is 825
including guidelines and resource box. Robert A. Kelly © 2003.

The Truth About Public Relations

by Robert A. Kelly

The truth is, you CAN attract the support of those external
audiences whose behaviors have the most effect on your
enterprise. But you must do it by first achieving the positive
changes you need in their perceptions and, thus, behaviors.

You’ll get both using this strategic approach to public relations
which means your chances of achieving your organizational
objectives are enhanced.

It all starts with the fundamental premise of public relations
shown just below.

“People act on their own perception of the facts before them,
which leads to predictable behaviors about which something
can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion
by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action those
people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public
relations mission is accomplished.”

The core strength of those comments lies in the behavior
changes that can take place among your key, outside audiences.
When those changes occur – and the combined perceptions
of members of that important external “public” begin to move
in your direction – it can spell public relations success.

For instance, with a strong factual basis, you convince area
activists gathering at your plant gate that (1) you don’t dump
chemicals into the river, and (2) both State and Federal
investigations found that to be true. When they finally clear
out, you’ve limited the damage an expensive and long-lasting
disruption could have caused. That saved the organization
cold, hard cash!

What happened? You managed to change the perception of
those activists which, predictably, led to the change in their
behavior that you desired. In other words, a successful use of
public relations’ fundamental premise.

While public relations can bring real power to bear, and while
there’s a well-worn path leading to each success, truth is, you
can’t change perceptions, and thus behaviors of your important
outside audiences if you are not in touch with them on a regular
and meaningful basis.

That’s why it’s so important to interact with members of each
target audience, and ask questions. What do you think of
our services, our programs, or our products? Are you satisfied?
Listen carefully for signs of a misconception or a factual
inaccuracy. Is there a belief alive out there that simply isn’t
true? Do you detect a hurtful rumor that must be squashed?

The answers you receive let you establish your public relations
goal. For example, correct that inaccuracy, clear up that
misconception, or get out the facts in order to neutralize that

But how will you actually reach that goal? With a clear and
urgent strategy.

Fortunately, in dealing with perception/opinion, we have
just three options available to us. Create perception/opinion
where there is none, change existing perception, or reinforce it.

The goal you established will quickly tell you which strategy
choice you must make.

But, of course, what you say to that target audience, in pursuit
of your public relations goal, is crucial. Your message must be
persuasive, compelling and clear as a mountain stream. It also
must be credible and believable, which means truthful in all
detail. It should also address the particular inaccuracy,
misconception or rumor head on and not allow room for any
further misunderstandings.

Now, how do you get that carefully chiseled message to the
attention of members of that key, target audience? I still call
them “beasts of burden” because they carry messages from
Point A to Point B. Communications tactics is the answer,
and you have a huge selection from which to choose.
Everything from open houses, contests, news releases and
speeches to brochures, community briefings, letters-to-the-
editor, emails, radio/TV and newspaper interviews, and
lots more.

Sooner rather than later, you will wonder whether you’re
making any progress. And the only realistic way to nail that
down is to go back to members of that target audience again
and ask them the same questions all over again.

The big difference this time around is, you’re looking for signs
that opinion/perceptions have begun to change in your
direction. By that I mean clear indications that the miscon-
ception is clearing up, or the inaccuracy has been corrected,
or that a negative impression is slowly turning around.

Truth is, that’s when this strategicFeature Articles, and powerful approach to
public relations – supported by appropriate tactical firepower
– delivers the altered perceptions and modified behaviors
promised in the fundamental premise of public relations.


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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.

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