How much more fundamental can you get than this? As a business, non-profit or association manager, if you don’t get your most important outside audiences on your side, you will fail.
To me, failure means critical target audiences that don’t behave as you want them to. For example, capital donors or specifying sources who look the other way, customers who fail to make repeat purchases, community leaders working closely with your competitors, prospects still doing business with others, organizations looking elsewhere to propose new strategic alliances and joint ventures, and even legislators and political leaders overlooking you as a critical member of the non-profit, association or business communities.

All that can change in a New York minute when you base a public relations effort on this simple premise: People act on their 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 those people whose actions affect the organization, the public relations mission is accomplished.

The primary benefit of that promise to you as a business, non-profit or association manager is the kind of fundamental stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your objectives.

So that’s very doable. Especially when you take the time to list your most important external audiences, then prioritize them according to the impacts they have on your organization.
The real key to success using this premise is gathering information as to how members of your core, external audience perceive your organization.

If you have the resources available and can afford professional survey help, fine. If, however, like most of us you don’t, the best alternative is for you or your colleagues to begin interacting with audience members. Ask many questions starting with, have you heard of us? What do you think of us, if at all? Have you ever done business with us? Why do you feel the way you do? î
Listen carefully for signs of negativity, and watch for untruths, false assumptions, inaccuracies, misconceptions or flagrant rumors.

The data you gather from this monitoring activity form the basis of your public relations goal. For example, correct that untruth or inaccuracy, clear up that misconception, or spike that rumor.

Now here, you encounter three forks in the road.

You need a strategy to show you how to get where you need to go. However, only three choices are available to you when dealing with matters of perception and opinion: create understanding where there may be none, change existing knowledge, or reinforce it. So make sure the strategy option you choose flows naturally from your new public relations goal.
It's writing time ñ hard work preparing the actual message designed to alter people’s perceptions leading, hopefully, to the behaviors you need to help achieve your objectives.
The corrective message is crucial. It must be clear about just what perception needs clarifying, and why. Your facts, of course, must be truthful, logical and believable to be persuasive. Also, the tone of the message should be compelling if it is to command attention and alter perception.

Next step is easy. Pick your beasts of burden the communications tactics you will use to carry that brand new, corrective message to members of your target audience.

You have a very long list of such tactics at your disposal. The only caveat is, make sure each one shows a proven record for reaching people like those who make up your specific target audience.

Tactics range from electronic magazines (called e-zines!), speeches, brochures and emails to radio/newspaper interviews, press releases, newsletters, facility tours and so many more.
Shortly, you will start to wonder if you are making any progress. So that means a second round of Q&A with members of your target audience. Same questions as before, by the way, only now your focus is on signs that their perception has been altered to reflect that described in your carefully prepared message.

You can always speed up the effort by introducing new communications tactics, and by increasing their frequencies. Also, not a bad idea to check that message of yours one more time for both factual accuracy, and for how successful it was at actually impacting opinion.
Clearly, as a business, non-profit or association manager, you benefit most when your public relations program succeeds in creating the kind of fundamental stakeholder behavior change that leads directly to achieving your objectives.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Lamplugh is a fourth-generation firefighter and former captain with the Lower Chichester (PA) Fire Company. Mark is currently President of the board with the Institute for Responder Wellness. Mark also owns Influence Media Solutions which is a Marketing, Public Relation, Digital Marketing and Social Media firm with accounts nationwide. Mark is one of the top marketing executives in the United States and has revolutionized how companies reach potential clients thru influence and traditional marketing. His expertise in Marketing, Social Media, Digital Marketing and Public Relations has generated millions of dollars of business to several national companies. Mark documents many of his techniques in his book "Beginners Guide to Social & Digital Media." He's also a professional advocate for the behavioral and mental health of firefighters and other first responders. Lamplugh hosts his own talk show called "Firefighter Wellness Radio" with Fire Engineering. Mark has been chosen as one of the Board of Directors at One World For Life (To head up Communication and the Health & Safety section). He can be reached for comment at