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Arent Small Businesses Lucky?
Why? Because they have access to world class public relations no matter how small they are.
That's one way of saying, take care of your key target audiences, Mr/Ms small business owner, and they'll take care of you.
What's that based on? Why the fundamental premise of public relations, of course.
"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."
And here's the first step towards putting that "magic" to work for your small business. Look closely at those outside audiences whose behaviors actually help or hinder your particular business. Decide which is your KEY target audience and concentrate on it for starters.
Next, mix in with members of that audience - we call it a "public" - ask questions and clearly monitor the answers. Anybody have a problem with your business? Notice any inaccurate perceptions or mistaken beliefs about your products or services? Are there misconceptions about your business involving pricing or quality? Do you see any kind of problems brewing down the line?
The answers to these questions should be grouped, then prioritized so that you apply limited resources to the most threatening problem areas.
The answers will lead to setting a clarifying public relations goal. Such as restoring understanding and acceptance by correcting that inaccurate perception; solving that frequently mentioned pricing glitch; or clearing up that misconception about service quality.
Now you need a strategy to help you reach that public relations goal.
As luck would have it, in public relations we choose from just three basic strategies: create perception (opinion) where none may exist; change existing perception; or reinforce it.
So, you have gathered input from your key target audience, and you've established a public relations goal and an enabling strategy.
But there's still work to do. You need a persuasive message to move opinion in your direction, but not just any message.
This one must aim squarely at setting down the truth about the misconception, or inaccuracy, or even an unfortunate rumor. The message must be crystal-clear, to the point, and believable. After all, there's a lot riding on it.
Of course, if you stopped right here, you'd never reach your public relations goal because no one would have seen or heard your message.
You need "beasts of burden," otherwise known as communications tactics, to carry that superb message of yours to the right eyeballs and ears.
And what a choice of communications tactics you have! Face- to-face meetings, emailings, feature article interviews, facility tours, press releases, speeches, open houses, consumer briefings, brochures, letters-to-the-editor and on and on.
But, at some point, you'll be curious as to whether you're making progress towards your public relations goal.
And that means tracking print and broadcast media coverage, but especially interacting once again with members of your key target audience. Only this time, you'll be looking for "changes of heart" with regard to the particular misconception, rumor or inaccuracy targeted by your public relations goal.
As you again speak with audience members, do you notice movement in your direction? Are there signs that your message and communications tactics have had a positive effect on people's understanding of the issue in question?
Yes? Your public relations effort looks like a success!
No? Back to the drawing board to ratchet up increased, and possibly redirected communications tactics, AND a reappraisal of the message itself. Could it be more pointed, more aggressive, clearer? Try it out on colleagues and watch their reactions.
Sounds like a lot of work?
Sure. But when survival could become an issue, isn't it worth it?
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.
Robert A. Kelly © 2005.
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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