Let Public Relations Do The Job It's Meant To Do
by Robert A. Kelly
Here's one view of the job its meant to do.
Public relations is firmly rooted in both the principle and reality that people act on their perception of the facts, and that something can be done about those underlying perceptions. When public relations activity successfully creates, changes or reinforces that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-action those people whose behaviors affect the organization, the public relations effort is a success. In the end, a sound public relations strategy combined with effective tactics leads directly to the bottom line - perceptions altered, behaviors modified, client/employer satisfied.
But not everybody believes that's the job public relations is meant to do. Here, in hopes of getting closer to the truth, are a few "contrasting opinions," and a reaction to each.
- "PR is all about image." This would ring truer if it aimed
that image directly at affecting individual perception
leading to predictable behavior modification. And all as
planned at the beginning of the public relations program.
- "PR creates mutual understanding?" Yes, but why not
take that phrase to its logical conclusion and add "leading to
modifying the perception and thus the behavior of key
audiences as planned before the effort got under way."
- "PR is doing good and getting credit for it." But most
effective when that credit is expressed through altered
perceptions and modified behaviors of key audiences.
- "PR is the management of communications between an
organization and its publics." And, as above, so much more
effective when those communications are positioned to reach
and alter individual perception and behaviors.
- "PR is the science of cultivating a presence in the community."
As long as that presence impacts groups of people important
to the organization and results in altering their perceptions and
modifying their behaviors, as planned at the outset.
- "PR is talking to the media on behalf of a client." An
important means to an even more important end - communicating, as planned,
with target audiences in order to alter their perception and
modify their behaviors.
- "PR is the art and science of helping clients or employers
communicate more effectively and persuasively with audiences
that impact them." Good, as far as it goes. But, it would be
better if it said "the science of helping clients or employers
achieve the behavior modification they REALLY want," rather
than stopping at the interim communications step.
- And finally, "PR is the ability to influence public opinion." Which displays a trait common to most of these pronouncements - it stops short of a clear description of what people who are paying for public relations really want.
Employers and clients are not primarily interested in our ability to schmooze with the media, communicate or paint images. Nor are they especially fascinated with our efforts to identify target audiences, set public relations goals and strategies, write persuasive messages, select communications tactics, et al.
What they invariably DO want is a change in the behaviors of certain key audiences which leads directly to the achievement of their business objectives. Hence, the emphasis in this article on careful planning for altered key audience perceptions and modified behaviors.
Which is why quality planning, and the degree of behavioral change it produces, defines success or failure of a public relations program.
Done correctly, when public relations results in modified behaviors among groups of people important to an organization, we're talking about nothing less than its survival.
About the Author
|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. mail to: bobkelly@TNI.net|
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