Public Relations: Use Its Core Strength

Mar 18 22:00 2002 Robert A. Kelly Print This Article

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Do you take the core strength of public relations into
account as you manage those communications tactics?

Because if you don’t,Guest Posting you’re missing the sweet-spot of
public relations. The communications tactics you employ
must work together to create desired behavioral change in
certain groups of people important to the success of your
organization. In the end, a sound public relations strategy
combined with effective tactics leads directly to the bottom
line – perceptions altered, behaviors modified, employer/
client satisfied.

The fact is that NO organization – business, non-profit
or public sector – can succeed today unless the behaviors
of its most important audiences are in-sync with the
organization’s objectives.

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

Which is why, when public relations goes on to successfully
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-action those people whose behaviors
affect the organization, it accomplishes its mission.

How can we be so certain? Question: 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

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.

Now, to achieve that goal, public relations practitioners
must be skilled in many tactical disciplines. Everything
from media relations, public speaking and a dozen kinds
of writing to financial communications, special events,
issue tracking and crisis management, to name just a few.

But too often, the tendency is to see little beyond a tactic’s
immediate impact. For example, a speech and how it was
received, a news release and how it was picked up and
presented in a newspaper or on TV, or a special event and
the audience’s reaction.

Of course those reactions are understandable and shouldn’t be
lightly dismissed. But the question also must be asked, to
what end are we applying those tactics?

Ask yourself this question: do we employ public relations
tactics for the sheer pleasure of writing news releases, running
special events, doing surveys or booking speeches? Obviously,
the answer is no. We employ public relations so that, at the
end of the day, somebody’s behavior gets modified.

That leads us directly to the core strength of public relations:
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 an
organization’s objectives.

To assess those behavior changes and, thus, the degree of
success the core public relations program has achieved, look
for evidence that your tactics have actually changed behavior.
Signs should begin showing up via Internet chatter, in print
and broadcast news coverage, reports from the field, letters-to-
the-editor, consumer and customer reactions, shareholder
letters and comments from community leaders. Consider doing
informal polls of employees, retirees, industrial neighbors
and local businesses as well as locating feedback from
suppliers as well as reaction from elected officials, union
leaders and government agencies.

The point of this article is that the core strength places
a special burden on each tactic selected to carry the
message to a target audience: does it/will it make a tangible,
action-producing contribution towards altering target audience
perceptions and behaviors? If not, it should be dropped and
replaced with a tactic that does.

That way, only the strongest tactics will be used allowing public
relations to apply its core strength to the challenge at hand:
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-action those people whose behaviors
affect the organization.

What do I believe the employer/client wants from us? I believe
s/he wants us to apply our special skills in a way that helps
achieve his or her business objectives. But no matter what
strategic plan we create to solve a problem, no matter what
tactical program we put in place, at the end of the day we
must modify somebody’s behavior if we are to earn
our money.

But the best part is that when the behavioral changes become
apparent, and meet the program’s original behavior modification
goal, three things have occurred.

One, the public relations program is a success. Two, by
achieving the behavioral goal you set at the beginning, you
are using a dependable and accurate public relations perfor-
mance measurement. And three, when our “reach, persuade
and move-to-action” efforts produce a visible, and desired,
modification in the behaviors of those people you wish to
influence, you are using public relations’ core strength to its
very best advantage.


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About Article Author

Robert A. Kelly
Robert A. Kelly

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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