People are Often the Strongest Asset to a Public Relations Strategy

Posted on June 21, 2013

People are Often the Strongest Asset to a Public Relations Strategy

By Paul Fulton, Jr., Vice President

In a flurry of press releases, social media content, collateral, public service announcements, and other collateral, it can be easy to focus on materials and lose sight of a public relations campaign’s potentially most valuable voice: its people.

And that holds true whether the goal is to elevate a corporate profile within a business landscape; change public perception of a cause-based issue; or manage the reputation of a renowned consumer brand.

Take, for example, physical therapy – like many health care issues, people likely don’t think about physical therapy until they need it.

With an aging population and key aspects of the federal Affordable Healthcare Act going into effect, though, the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia (PTAG) wanted, in part, to elevate the industry’s role and value across the state – both among consumers and highly targeted individuals whose decisions affect Georgians’ access to physical therapy.

We started this assignment with research. The statistics were relatively easy to come by – how many licensed physical therapists are in Georgia; how many Georgians have undergone physical therapy in the past year; and such. A kneejerk could be to build a stat-based case.

While numbers tell the story of value and access, though, it’s not the only story line – or likely the most interesting one to Everyday Georgian. When we dug deeper, we discovered PTAG members doing some amazing things with their patients and in their communities:

  • A Newnan, Ga., physical therapist resuscitated a woman who was nearly paralyzed when she fell from a horse and suffered a tragic spinal cord injury.
  • An Atlanta physical therapist was diagnosed with Leukemia, coincidentally less than a year after he focused his entire practice on helping individuals undergoing cancer treatment maintain strength and flexibility – today, he taps his first-hand experience and continues exclusively supporting cancer treatment.
  • A Marietta, Ga., physical therapist has taken up cycling to raise thousands of dollars to support initiatives that prevent and cure ovarian cancer, which, in addition to breast cancer, has affected several of her friends.

These stories took on tactical lives that influenced audiences through local and statewide media coverage; social media and blog content; online; and other channels. 

While statistics validate, your audience may perceive personal stories as more credible. Think about it like this: a health care association’s website may provide heart-healthy tips. You may casually dismiss those – but you’ll take to heart (so to speak) the very same tips when they come from a physician you know and trust. The message is the same, but delivering those messages through a person – rather than a material – can have more influence.

The “people” strategy spans beyond health care and trade associations.

One person’s emotional, first-hand quote about a social cause can serve as a more meaningful – and more influential – social media graphic when compared to numbers and icons that demonstrate scale. Or introducing a legislator to a citizen who will be affected by an upcoming vote could carry more weight than an impersonal fact sheet.

During strategic planning, dig deep into audience research to find the best triggers to influence their perception – and then match those triggers with internal or third-party voices. You may find the individual-based approach can yield tremendous outcomes.

Summary

While statistics validate and materials communicate, personal stories are often perceived as credible. The key is to dig deep into audience research and find best triggers to influence perception – and then match those triggers with internal or third-party people whose voices are the most influential in carrying your message. 


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