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18 Mar 2016
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It appears difficult to believe in the dawn of the Modern day, that there exists
a major discipline with so many diverse, partial, incomplete and limited interpretations of their mission. Here, merely a sampling of professional opinion
on which public relations is all about:

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* actually talking to the media on behalf of complaintant.

* selling an item, service or idea.

* reputation management.

* engineering of perception

* doing good and getting credit for it.

* attracting credit to a organization for doing good and limiting the negative effects when it does bad

As there is an element of truth in these definitions, most zero in on only part of what advertising is capable of doing, kind of a halfway fundamental premise. Worse, they are not able to answer the question, from what end do they lead? Few even mention the genuine end-game -- behavior modification -- the thing against which all advertising activity must be charged.

Here's my opinion regarding the fundamental premise of public relations: People act on their thought of the facts leading to behaviors about which something can be done. When public relations creates, changes or reinforces that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action people whose behaviors impact the organization, the public relations mission is accomplished.

Even when we feel certain in regards to the fundamental premise of publicity, maybe we should take another look? If we are wrong, at the best we miss out on public relation's enormous benefits. At worst, we can easily damage ourselves and our organizations.

The primary premise suggests that, to help achieve true competitive advantage, management must insure that it is public relations investment is committed directly to influencing the organization's most critical audiences. And THEN insure how the tacticians efficiently prepare and communicate messages that may influence those audience perceptions and, thus, behaviors. For non-profits or public sector entities, the emphasis can be on achieving the organization's primary objectives.

Is there a alternative when we see some public relations people managing to pass through their entire careers with out a firm grasp with the fundamental premise of publicity? Their responses to crises, or requests for well thought-out ways of public relations problems, reveal a serious lack of understanding. They confuse the essential function of public relations with numerous tactical parts that define the whole, such as publicity, crisis management or employee relations. Understandably, they are unsure in approaching advertising problems, then uncertain as to what counsel to give the clientele. Many, relying on career-long misconceptions about advertising, forge ahead anyway advising your client ineffectively sometimes with damaging, otherwise dangerous counsel.

In seeking an answer to this challenge to understanding, we simply cannot rely solely on tactics and even emulate the artillery training commander who tells his student gunners "point your guns in any direction and fire when you feel like it!"

Instead, equally as that artillery commander teaches his newbie gunners to softly analyze their target and precisely what they must do to reach it, so it's with public relations.

Good opportunity resides on the get-go where we really could make certain our public relations students CLEARLY understand the basic premise of advertising at the beginning of their careers. AND that they have an equally clear idea of the organizational context -- business, non-profit or public sector -- in which they will be expected to apply what they have learned, and in that they must operate successfully.

Bushy-tailed and bright with promise, the new generation of pr professionals must learn that their employer/client wants us to use our special skills in a manner that helps achieve his / her business objectives. And that 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 have to modify somebody's behavior as to earn our money.

One of the benefits is, when the behavioral changes become apparent, and meet the program's original behavior modification goal, three benefits appear.
One, the general public relations program can be a success. Two, by experienceing this behavioral goal we set from the outset, we are using a dependable and accurate publicity performance measurement. And three, when our "reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action" efforts make a visible modification from the behaviors of those people we want to influence, we are using public relations' special strengths on their very best advantage.

Budding professionals should learn at the beginning of their careers that a lot of employers and customers are not primarily thinking about our ability to fraternize using the media, communicate or paint images. Nor is it especially fascinated with our efforts to identify target audiences, set pr goals and strategies, write persuasive messages, select communications tactics, et al.

Just what the employer/client invariably DOES want can be a change in the behaviors of certain key audiences that leads directly to the achievement of their business objectives. Hence, the emphasis in the following paragraphs on careful planning for altered key audience perceptions and modified behaviors.

Which is why quality preparation and also the degree of behavioral change it out produces, defines failure or success for a public relations program. Done right, when public relations leads to modified behaviors among teams of people vitally important for any organization, we could be talking about nothing less than its survival.

So why, young people, do we feel so strongly about the fundamental premise of pr? Because some of us learned from leaders within the field, from mentors and from long years of experience that there are only three ways a public relations effort may affect behavior: create opinion where it does not exist, reinforce existing opinion or change that opinion. No surprise that the process where those goals are realized is known as public relations. While behavior is the goal, and a host of communications tactics include the tools, our strategy is the leverage provided by public opinion.

We also learned the hard method that when your employer/client starts hunting for a return on his or her advertising investment, it becomes clear in a rush that the goal Has to be the kind of change in the behaviors of key stakeholders that leads directly to achieving business objectives.

Also i believe that we should advise our newcomers that if their employers/clients ever say they're not getting the behavior changes they purchased, they're probably wasting the amount of money they're spending on public relations.

Here's why I say that. Once again, we realize that people act on their perception of the facts, that those perceptions bring about certain behaviors, and that something can be done about those perceptions and behaviors which leads to achieving the employer/client's business objectives.

Meaning s/he really CAN establish the desired behavior change up front, then require getting that result before pronouncing the public relations effort profitable.

In other words, the way to increase their comfort level about their public relations investment, is to make certain that investment produces the behavior modification i was told that they wanted at the start of the program,

That way, they KNOW they're getting their money's worth.

I'd be remiss here easily omitted reference to the difficulties those a new comer to the field will encounter in looking to evaluate public relations performance. Often, they'll find themselves using highly-subjective, restricted and only partially applicable performance judgments. Most notable, inquiry generation, story content analysis, gross impressions as well as advertising value comparable to the publicity space obtained.

The key reason for this sorry state of affairs is the lack of affordable public opinion survey items that could demonstrate conclusively that this public relations perception and behavioral goal set at the beginning of the program was, actually, achieved. Usually, opinion surveys adequate on the job of establishing certainly that a behavioral goal was achieved, are cost-prohibitive, often far more than the overall cost of the advertising program itself!

However, young adults, all is not lost. Obviously, some behavioral changes are immediately visible, for example customers returning to showrooms, environmental activists abandoning plant gate protests or a rapidly improving job retention rate. We follow less obvious behavioral change by monitoring indicators that directly impact behavior such as comments in community meetings and business speeches, local newspaper, television and radio editorials, emails from market members and thought-leaders, and public statements by people in politics and local celebrities.

We even shadow our personal communications tactics trying to monitor their influence on audience perception -- tactics such as face-to-face meetings, Internet ezines and email, hand-placed newspaper and magazine feature articles and broadcast appearances, special consumer briefings, news releases, announcement luncheons, onsite media interviews, facility tours, brochures and also special events like promotional contests, financial road shows, awards ceremonies, trade conventions, celebrity appearances and open houses -- each meant to impact individual perception and behavior.

And it does work -- we ARE able to demonstrate a direct impact on perception and behavior to the employer/client. But affordable professional opinion/behavioral surveys will be the best solution. Clearly, solving this problem remains a major challenge for both the public relations and survey disciplines.

An additional piece of advice for the soon-to-be publicity professional. As we begin to achieve proficiency in public places relations, an action pathway to success also starts to appear:

* find out the problem

* identify target audiences

* set the general public relations goal

* set people relations strategy

* prepare persuasive messages

* select and implement key communications tactics

* monitor progress

* as well as the end game? Fulfill the behavior modification goal.

I really hope these remarks bring about a broadened comprehension of the fundamental function of publicity in our organizations, especially among our entry-level colleagues. Specifically, how it can strengthen relationships with those important groups of people -- those target audiences, those "publics" whose perceptions and behaviors may help or hinder the achievement in our employer/client's business objectives.

Your final thought for those entering or likely to enter the field of publicity -- you'll know you've attained each public relations end game when the changes in behaviors become truly apparent through feedback like increased numbers of positive media reports, encouraging supplier and thought-leader comment, and increasingly upbeat employee and community chatter.

Put simply, sound strategy along with effective tactics leads straight away to the bottom line -- altered perceptions, modified behaviors, and a public relations homerun.


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