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Mind Your Own Business!
And the best way to mind your own business is to insure that those audiences whose behaviors have the greatest effect on your enterprise keep thinking about you in the most positive way. Reason is, bad behaviors often follow bad perceptions, so what your external audiences think about you can mean success or failure.
It's not hard to do, but it's something you must attend to on a regular basis. How? Try this.
Nobody can do it all, so put those outside audiences in order-of-importance with the REALLY key audience at the top-of-the-list.
Once prioritized. and beginning with #1, learn more about what's on the minds of that audience. In other words, monitor their feelings and perceptions about you and your business. Ask questions. While you will appreciate positive input (and take it into account), it's absence of awareness, misconceptions, inaccuracies and hard feelings that you're really after because that's what can cause you grief. Also, stay alert for similar indicators coming from print and broadcast media, emails, and business and community speeches and pronouncements.
In public relations, we know that people act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. So, 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.
O.K., you've now gathered a lot of information about how your key target audience feels or doesn't feel about you and/or your business. What do you do with it?
You establish your public relations goal. For example, correct this inaccuracy; straighten out that misconception; reinforce and strengthen a slightly positive perception; change a view of your business that's just plain wrong.
But now, you need a strategy to help you achieve that goal. In public relations, that means you get to choose one of three basic strategies: create opinion (perceptions) where none may exist; change existing opinion; or reinforce it.
Take another look at the public relations goal you've established and make certain that the strategy you've selected is a logical match.
Which brings you to "the message." Exactly what meaning and what remedial understanding do you want to convey to members of that key target audience? Your message must be crystal-clear about the misconception, rumor, inaccuracy or wrong-minded belief you discovered while interacting with, and gathering information from members of that audience.
The corrective message must be persuasive and believable - not aggressive or overbearing - as it outlines in plain language the simple truth of the matter.
How do you move messages from your business to the eyes and ears of members of your key target audience? You use communications tactics, or "beasts of burden" as I like to call them. There are a ton of them and their job is to carry your message directly to the attention of key audience members.
Tactics range from Internet communications, facility tours, editorial board meetings and press releases to broadcast interviews, promotional contests, brochures, face-to-face meetings and many others.
But how do you know whether the effort is succeeding or not? You remonitor members of that key target audience, watching carefully for signs that perception (opinion) is moving in your direction. In other words, do you see progress towards achieving the public relations goal you established at the beginning of the program? For example, increasing numbers of people appear to understand why the rumor was wrong, or what they believed about your business was simply inaccurate.
If your goal and strategy make sense, and if your message is persuasive and your communications tactics aggressive and well-targeted, signs of public understanding and acceptance will steadily increase.
In which case minding one's business in this manner will prove especially rewarding as the public relations program achieves success.
Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net.
Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks to business, non-profit and association managers about using the fundamental premise of public relations to achieve their operating objectives. 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. He holds a bachelor of science degree from Columbia University, major in public relations.
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