What is Perception Management and why it is Important for Organizational Success

What is Perception Management and Why it is So Important for Corporates

We often hear the term, perceptions matter more than reality bandied about in the media and in organizational behaviour textbooks.

In addition, we also come across how marketers and branding experts often indulge in perception management wherein they create a positive climate for their products to be sold in the market.

Moreover, we also read how equity markets and share traders often base their buy and sell orders on perceptions of publicly held companies. So, what is perception management and why is it so important for organizations.

First, perception is how we think about a particular person, situation, event, or anything for that matter based on the stimuli we receive and the feelings and thoughts that we have about that entity.

Mind you, the entity in question might or might not be what we perceive them to be and this is where perception management is important as irrespective of reality, we either perceive that entity in a favourable manner or we have a negative perception.

Therefore, the art and science of perception management is all about how entities create a favourable impression of themselves to their stakeholders be it prospective or existing employees, shareholders, consumers, and society at large. Thus, organizations have to ensure that they are perceived well by their stakeholders.

Real World Examples of Successful Perception Management

It is not only corporates but also any other entities who have to manage perceptions. During our corporate careers, we came across situations where it was important for our employers to manage the employees’ perceptions about it.

For instance, right from the design of the lobby where visitors could be received and to the piped music that was being played, our employers ensured that both employees and visitors had a positive perception and the ambient atmosphere meant that irrespective of what the reality was, at least the perceptions were positive.

Apart from this, we also learnt in training sessions on how perceptions were important and why it was imperative to engage in perception management.

For instance, during one such training, our trainer recounted how he could prevent an ugly situation when he was working in a bank that faced a liquidity crunch and hence, its depositors rushed to withdraw their money.

He mentioned how the bank manager displayed a ward of notes and bundles of currency notes on a table for all to see to convince panicked customers that their money was safe. In this way, irrespective of whether what was the reality, the bank manager ensured that the situation was handled by adroit perception management.

Perception Management

Reality has to Match the Image and There Must be Substance to the Hype

Having said that, it is also not the case that it is enough to manage perceptions in the immediate or short term without creating longer term advantages.

For instance, the present Indian government is often accused by its critics of managing perceptions rather than creating wealth for all in reality.

It is also accused of marketing and perception management in virtually all spheres without having anything to show for.

Moreover, in our Electronic and Digital media driven world, it is often easy to manage perceptions rather than creating longer term and deep and durable narratives.

Indeed, with the power of the visual media where a Picture Speaks a Thousand Words, it is clear that perceptions can easily be managed.

In all this intoxicating information transmission and consumption, often the viewers and the readers are the victims of information warfare through perception management and hence, from a purely ethical point of view, there must be limits to perception management or otherwise, there is a risk of losing the plot altogether.

The Promise and Peril of Perception Management in the Digital Age

Indeed, in the present Digital Age, perception management and information warfare have become so rampant that sometimes, it is difficult to separate myth from fact and image from reality.

This is where astute marketers and business leaders can step in and ensure that there is substance to go with the story and there is narrative to go with the branding.

In other words, to create longer term value and truly sustainable organizations and marketing campaigns, these leaders can deliver on the promise and ensure the reality matches the image.

Indeed, the Digital Age has spawned numerous challenges for all stakeholders wherein the speed of events is such that, even masters of perception management can lose the plot where creating favourable impressions is concerned.

In addition, with no checks and balances to prevent those from going overboard, even perceptions can backfire on them.

This is more the reason why perception management has to follow some structure and rules if it has to succeed not only in the immediate term but also over the longer term.

With so much Information Overload, it is also difficult to create positive perceptions without the consumers being bombarded with nonstop barrage of information. In turn, this leads to fatigue and a switching off by the consumers which defeats the whole purpose.

First Impressions and Long Term

Last, while we are easy to Fall In Love At First Sight and First Impressions are Best Impressions, we need to be mindful of the fact that for longer term benefits and sustainable relationships, it is important for us to not only create positive perceptions but also reinforce them through reality based actions and then actualize a positive loop of action, feedback, and reinforcement leading to more sustainable actions.

To conclude, in times of extreme completion, Perception Management becomes all important for corporates and other entities.

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