Managerial Survival Key

By: Robert A. Kelly

For business, non-profit or association managers like yourself, survival pretty much depends on whether you achieve, or fail to achieve your department, division or subsidiary objectives.

Which strongly suggests that, if you haven’t already done so, you may wish to employ a set of tools that will help you persuade your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to your success.

The tools comprise the fundamental premise of public relations: people act on their own perception of the facts before them, which leads to predictable behaviors about which something can be done. When we create, change or reinforce that opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-desired-action the very people whose behaviors affect the organization the most, the public relations mission is accomplished.

And the promise those tools hold for managers are behaviors like new prospects and more existing buyers, repeat purchasors, highly qualified job seekers, new capital contributions, increased membership referrals or more proposals for strategic alliances.

But there is work to do. You need information about those key external audiences. What do they know about your unit and its operations? How familiar are they, if at all, with your services or products? Have they ever worked with any of your people? Was the experience positive?

Tell the public relations folks assigned to your department, division or subsidiary that you want answers to those questions. And for the simple reason that how those important outside audiences perceive your operation usually leads to behaviors that can help or hinder you in achieving your objectives.

Work with them on a list of your key external audiences whose actions most affect your operations. Put those groups in priority order and let’s have a go at #1.

Remember that the success of your new public relations effort depends heavily on how well you gather these key audience perceptions.

Here, you have a choice. You and your PR staff can interact with members of that target audience, which seems appropriate since your PR folks are already in the perception and behavior business. Or, if a substantial budget is available to you, you can hire professional survey counsel to do the work for you.

Either way, asking members of your key target audience questions such as those outlined above along with the responses you receive, provide the foundation data that underpins your entire public relations effort.

But, as you monitor audience member responses to your questions, stay alert for hesitant or evasive observations about your organization. Do you note statements that are untrue or misconceived? How about inaccuracies, rumors or false assumptions? You’ll need to remedy them because we know that negative perceptions inevitably lead to negative behaviors that must be fixed to protect your operation.

As mentioned, the data your interactive monitoring produces is the raw material with which you create your public relations goal. And that might well be clearing up that misconception, correcting that inaccuracy or replacing an untruth with the truth.

Reaching that goal is another matter. You need the right strategy to show you how to get there. As luck would have it, they’re but three strategic choices in perception/opinion matters like this. Create perception/opinion where you have none, change that perception, or reinforce it.

Good writing doesn’t come easy, but that’s your next challenge. Here, you must put together the message you will use to transmit your corrective facts and figures to those members of your target audience.

Now, all at the same time – in a single message – you must be clear about why the false assumption, the misconception or the inaccuracy should be clarified, or even corrected. Your message must present truthful supporting facts, and must be believable and, if at all possible, compelling.

Your public relations team will provide that talent. Also discuss with them blending the message into a variety of public presentations so as not to damage its credibility with a high-profile announcement.

Keep in mind that the timetable can always be accelerated by adding new communications tactics and by increasing their frequencies. Also a good idea to continue refining and updating the message itself.

Happily, what you will have done is use a set of tools that helped you persuade your most important outside audiences to your way of thinking, then move them to take actions that lead to managerial success and, some might say, survival.

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