Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 9, 2008

Behavioral Public Relations: In the End, It’s All About Behavior & Relationships

Yearly planning sessions are a “triggering event” for public relations practitioners to step back and examine the impact of what has been done with various stakeholder groups and to ask, “What were our goals?” and “Have we been successful?”

Jackson Jackson & Wagner’s philosophy is that we should be asking ourselves these questions all year. The focus should be on getting behavioral results. We should be asking what behaviors we are seeking from stakeholders and what triggering events – we can create or piggyback on to jumpstart these behaviors. Knowing humans don’t always choose the ultimate desired behaviors, we should also ask what are some “intermediate behaviors” we can encourage that would pave the way for behavior change?
As we think about the process we all go through when making a decision to act, whether it’s to buy a product, support a political candidate or join an organization, one-way communication starts this process by getting our attention and providing information; and once our decision is made, it provides reinforcement. But then we must check it out with someone we trust and respect — opinion leaders, who will vary depending on the topic at hand. 

As practitioners, we need to be sure we’re doing a good job balancing the amount of energy we’re putting in to one-way and two-way communications while keeping our opinion leader relationships current. More questions we should ask are: Do I have an updated list of opinion leaders, by stakeholder group? Is it well rounded? (Does it contain more than just names of elected officials, or “power leaders?”) When’s the last time I got in touch with them?  Do I contact them regularly or just when I want something from them?  Am I keeping them informed as a member of my organization’s extended family?  Am I using social media tools to supplement personal relationships – or to replace them?

By Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, senior counsel at Jackson Jackson & Wagner. Robin Schell  has 20 years of consulting experience and specializes in strategic planning, effective internal and external communication systems, constituency relations programs and behavioral research.

Join Schell for her two-day seminar, “PR Boot Camp: Key Concepts and Techniques of Effective Public Relations,” Tuesday, February 2–Wednesday, February 3 in San Fransisco, CA!

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