As the saying goes, “Perception is reality.”
What you believe
you have experienced is, to you, fact
dropped a teacup today while setting the table for lunch.
In the realm
of teacups (in this case, a Chinese teacup…basic, inexpensive), this one was
way down on the list. It has been with us for a bazillion years, travelled to
the Philippines with us and all over the U.S. as we moved around in my career.
But (at least in my fuzzy brain) it
was just a teacup.
to the other side of the household, who immediately set out on an hour-long
dissertation on the meaning behind
the dropping of the teacup.
As she perceived the incident…this was yet one more sign of encroaching “old
age.” Motor skills are going to hell in a handbasket.
matter that I’ve been dropping stuff since the beginning of time…a 50-pound
roll of paper on my right foot (broke a toe in that exercise) and a computer hard drive (old-style, heavy hard drive) on my left foot (ditto on the result)…just for
And that started me thinking about perceptions…how others process events or actions that
we, ourselves, also experience, but in a different way.
This, as I
tell my undergraduate Communication students at Curry College, where I head the
Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, is what makes the public relations profession so interesting, challenging…and frustrating.
happen. Products break. Blood donors get hematomas. An employee has a really
bad day and snaps at a customer.
been around for a few (or more) years, you know that these events are
inevitable. As a salesman once astutely told my wife as she was zeroing in on
some minuscule defects in a relatively inexpensive lamp, “Nothing’s perfect,
Your challenge as the public relations leader
is to ensure that mechanisms are in place to respond quickly and efficiently…and
to ensure that everyone involved, both internally and externally, understands what
has been done.
leave you because your product was faulty…we all know products break on occasion.
because their perception is…if you’ve done nothing to address the situation…that
you don’t care. Your company doesn’t care, so why should they care? They can just go somewhere else.
Your job as the public relations leader is to
help everyone in your organization understand that it doesn’t matter that products will break once in
What matters is that the customer doesn’t see
it that way. He perceives it as a sign of encroaching product inferiority…“old
You have to
take action to change that perception and to help the customer understand the
reality…that you and you company are proud of your products or services and
that you stand proudly behind each and every one.
That’s your reality.
(Oh...and to close the story...she finally agreed that I'm basically clumsy!)
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion…”
Robert Burns, “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a
Lady's Bonnet at Church”