Tuesday, July 16, 2013


By Rod C. Estrera

Issue No. 004 – 15 July 2013

The Four Key Questions In Communication Planning (Part 3)


Welcome back once more! This is now the fourth issue of my new Blog Series on Basic Public Relations and Corporate Communication lessons, tips and insights for Industry Professionals and interested Non-Practitioners. Feel free to visit and re-visit the first to third issues (01, 04 and 09 July) here on my Blog Site.

As started in our Issue No. 2, and to continue until Issue No. 5, we will discuss “The Four Key Questions” that need to be asked and addressed in the preparation of every Communication Plan, be it for PR, Advertising, Marketing, Corporate Communication, Special Events or even for Crisis Communication.  Again, these questions, which should serve as the cornerstones of our Communication Research efforts even before an actual Communication Plan is developed, are as follows:

1.  Who is my audience?

2.  What do I want my audience to do?

3.  What perceptions guide their actions?

4.  How can I change their actions?

For this issue, we will now tackle the third question: “What perceptions guide their actions?” We need to take note of three basic factors as follows:

·        First, we identify “incentives” to make them ultimately change their behavior. This is the “What’s in it for me?” Factor.

·        Second, we need to constantly remember that effective communication affects the determinants to ultimately influence behavior in our favor. It’s not primarily the quantity, but the quality of our communication efforts that really matter.

·        Third, it is crucial for us to identify which determinants have the biggest influence on audience behavior, and for us to devise a specific effective strategy. We communicators often take pride in our “shotgun” approach in doing things, hoping that one of our shots would make its mark. Like true marksmen, we should not waste our shots, but make all of our shots actually count. 

Here are some factors in the creation of audience perception:

·        Perceived Benefits. Again, this is the “What’s in it for me?” factor. This refers to what people WANT, and not necessarily what they NEED. Behavioral changes are much easier if positive effects are felt on a personal level. 

·        Trust. Trust is all about support. We develop trust by giving out accurate facts, sometimes by using a credible spokesperson, or even through the use of appropriate and tasteful humor. Trust should never be ignored, most especially by government agencies or big corporations. We thus need to verify if we have already been “branded” by a negative stereotype in our audience’s mind (i.e., are we perceived as trustworthy, reputable, honorable, etc., or not?).

Perceived Benefits and Trust –

·        These are thus shaped by people’s experiences of our company or organization, and the kind of information they have received about it. These are mostly on the subconscious level and unclear to them why they like (or dislike) us.
·        To change behavior, we have to dissect what forces have influenced them over time. According to psychology experts, there are three major factors in the creation of perception – Learning, Feeling and Doing.

Method of Learning –

·        This is determined by the kind of information received. The Three Sources of Learning are: Personal Sources, Non-Personal and Direct.
·        Of the three, Personal Sources are the most effective. Communication campaigns should not just center on news and press releases. We need to simulate the “personal encounter” by getting opinion leaders – that is, people our publics trust – to offer testimonials.
·        We need to shape our materials to get the public to talk about the topic among themselves (i.e., creating a buzz, whether traditional or viral). It is not enough that they read about the issue, they must also discuss it over dinner or by the water cooler at the office.

Timing of Learning –

·        Given today’s information overload, people now tend to block out many messages to focus on what they believe is important to them.
·        It is thus critical to time our communication messages to people when they are most receptive.
·        This is where good research can help identify out “window period” to ensure our message hits the mark.

Feeling –

·        This is one of the most important factors in the creation of a perception.
·        We all know that human beings are very subjective. Emotions color what we see, or want to see.
·        We need to reach our audience/s and connect with them on both logical and emotional levels, by translating key ideas into a language that will hit them where it matters the most – their needs, their belief systems, and the things that they value the most.
·        Our messages should talk about how these will make our audience/s feel good.

Doing –

·        When people weigh different ideas or actions, they compute the various risks involved. They say to themselves, “What will happen if I do this or that? What will I have to give up?”
·        Risks include social risks (what other people will think), psychological risks (comfort zones, self-image), physical risks (“Is it dangerous? How will it affect my basic needs?), functional risks (“Is it convenient?”) and financial risks (“How much it will it cost or set me back?”)
·        That is why it is important for us to communicate to our audience/s that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Do continue to stay tuned for my next issue in a few days’ time for the Fourth of “The Four Key Questions” – “How can I change their actions?” Again, I hope these easy-to-remember topics prove to be useful for both my fellow PR/Communication Professionals and our Clients/Bosses. 

Thank you once more for your interest.  May we all have a great and productive week ahead!

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