Is Public Relations Truly A “Soft” Discipline?

If that is the case, what constitutes a “difficult” discipline? One that entails a colossal sum of money or personal suffering? One that consumes the general counsel’s entire time? Or is it the blinding success of a brand-new business, or is it something more personal? Or does it have to rely solely on clubs and brass knuckles?

I believe public relations is as “difficult” as ANY discipline when it comes to putting together the resources and action plans necessary to alter individual perceptions, resulting in changed behaviors, among a business, non-profit, government agency, or association’s most important external audiences. When it comes to assisting managers in persuading those critical individuals to adopt their way of thinking and then motivating them to take actions that enable their department, group, division, or subsidiary to succeed, that is extremely difficult.

Given that this can mean the difference between success and failure for an organization, yes, I would describe it as a very “hard” discipline!

And that notion is not self-contained. Its premise is the underlying premise of public relations itself: people act according to their own perceptions of the facts in front of them, which results in predictable behaviors that can be changed. The public relations mission is typically accomplished when we create, change, or reinforce that opinion by reaching out to, persuading, and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors have the greatest impact on the organization.

That is why many managers take solace in the fact that effective public relations planning CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE PERCEPTION AND RESULTS IN CHANGED BEHAVIOR AMONG KEY OUTSIDE AUDIENCES!

If you are that manager, keep in mind that your public relations effort must encompass more than special events, press releases, and brochures if you are to achieve the desired level of public relations results.

It will all seem worthwhile when capital providers or specifying sources begin to look your way; customers begin to make repeat purchases; membership applications increase; new proposals for strategic alliances and joint ventures begin to surface; politicians and legislators begin to view you as a critical member of the business, non-profit, government, or association communities; welcome bounces in show room visits occur; community leaders begin to seek you out, and

Your public relations professionals are nearby and can be of great assistance with your new opinion monitoring project, as they are already familiar with perception and behavior. However, ensure that the public relations staff understands why it is critical to understand how your most important external audiences perceive your operations, products, or services. Above all, instill in them the belief that perceptions almost always result in behaviors that can either benefit or harm your operation.

Before you begin monitoring and collecting perceptions by interviewing members of your most important external audiences, discuss your plans with your public relations staff. Practise questions such as the following: how much do you know about our organization? Have you previously communicated with us and were you satisfied with the exchange? Are you familiar with our services or products, as well as the people who work for us? Have you encountered issues with our personnel or procedures?

Prepare for an epiphany when you discover that hiring professional survey firms to conduct opinion gathering will cost significantly more than using your own public relations professionals who are already in the perception monitoring business. Regardless of who is conducting the survey, the objective is the same: to identify untruths, false assumptions, unfounded rumors, inaccuracies, and misconceptions, as well as any other negative perception that may translate into harmful behaviors.

The time has come to set goals, goals that will motivate you to take action on the most serious issues you discovered during your key audience perception monitoring. Will it be to dispel that pernicious misunderstanding? How about correcting that glaring inaccuracy? Or, alternatively, put an end to that potentially painful rumor?

The facts of life dictate that establishing a specific public relations objective requires an equally specific strategy outlining how to achieve it. When it comes to influencing perception and opinion, you have only three strategic options. Change pre-existing perceptions, create new ones where none exist, or reinforce existing ones. The incorrect strategy selection will taste like Hollandaise Sauce on your waffles, so make certain that your new strategy aligns with your new public relations objective. You certainly do not want to choose “change” when the facts dictate a reinforcement strategy.

Effective writing has always been critical in public relations, but it has never been more critical than it is now. Here, you must craft a persuasive message that will persuade your target audience to adopt your point of view. It must be a well-crafted message addressed directly to your primary external audience. Choose your best writer because she must create corrective language that is not only compelling, persuasive, and credible, but also clear and factual if perception opinion is to be shifted toward your point of view and the behaviors you desire.

Selecting the communications tactics most likely to bring your message to your target audience’s attention can be a pleasurable task. There are numerous options available to you. From speeches, facility tours, emails, and brochures to consumer briefings, media interviews, newsletters, and personal meetings, there are a variety of ways to communicate. Take the time to ensure that the tactics you choose are known to reach people who are similar to your audience members.

Another reality we face in public relations is that any message’s credibility is precarious and always suspect to some people. Thus, the manner in which you communicate it is a legitimate concern. Which is why, rather than using high-profile news releases, you may wish to unveil such a corrective message through smaller presentations and meetings.

Numerous circumstances may necessitate the start of a second perception monitoring session with members of your external audience. However, there is nothing quite like discussing progress reports. You will want to repeat a good deal of the questions from the benchmark session. However, you will now be on high alert for signs that the perception of bad news is being shifted in your direction.

Because not all programming runs smoothly, if momentum begins to wane, you can always accelerate the process by adding additional communication tactics and increasing their frequency.

Utilization of tactical devices tactical devices (such as the communications tactics discussed previously) in order to avoid conflating them with the broader, more comprehensive public relations mission. A mission that we now recognize enables managers of all stripes to influence individual perception in a way that results in altered behaviors among critical external audiences.

A discipline that could easily be classified as one of the “more difficult” disciplines required to ensure the success of any manager’s operation.

22 thoughts on “Is Public Relations Truly A “Soft” Discipline?”

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