Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
February 17, 2010

Community Relationships Drive Public Consent With Direct Communication

How do you achieve and maintain public consent using direct communication and social media rather than more traditional media-dominated, influence-peddling approaches? One major lesson I have learned is that, many times, success requires going directly to those most affected and far less to and through the news media and other indirect sources.

This is an era of easy allegation, rampant speculation, over-interpretation, contentiousness, and negative forecasting. To assure yourself that the public has the information it needs to make decisions effectively, you will need to deal with them and engage them directly, constantly.

This is a different discipline and requires different public relations tools than those so many of us are used to using. While traditional tools have their applications, it is the direct techniques — face-to-face work, small group work, and special contacts with critics, opponents, and detractors — that make this approach so different and valuable. When you rely on traditional media you get contention, confrontation, conflict, and confusion. When you rely on lobbyists, elected officials, and influence peddlers, you just get their agendas.

Some aspects of direct communication strategies involve winning one “doorbell” at a time, one “lunch bucket” at a time, one “rubber chicken dinner” at a time. It is an exercise dominated by emotional individuals and groups — where science no longer matters, exaggeration rules and intimidation can be the order of the day. 

Believe it or not, you can win without everyone liking you, with some even angry with you, with the media attacking you, and with public officials less than pleased with you.

Be ready: Walk in the front door, start early, answer all of the questions first, work the process, and respond instantly and completely whenever called upon. Understand the patterns of all the players and work ahead of the patterns.

James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEPJames E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEP, chairman and president, The Lukaszewski Group Inc., is one of public relations most frequently quoted and prolific authors/crisis communication management consultants. He helps prepare spokespersons for crucial public appearances and local and network news interviews including “20-20,” “60 Minutes,” “Dateline NBC,” “Nightline,” financial analyst meetings, and legislative and congressional testimony. Sign up for Jim’s free Executive Action eNewsletter at

For more wisdom on gaining community consent, join Jim for the teleseminar, “Building Community Relationships: Overcome Opposition and Gain Community Consent” on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. EST.

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