Power of Public Perception

by Julie Hogan, JAE, Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce

How cool would it be to have the power to read minds? Pretty cool, right?

Unfortunately, we do not posses such capabilities, as humans, to aid us in our judgments. Instead we must rely on the things we see and hear, what we perceive, to be the supporting facts of our ideas. Perception can be helpful and build us up, or it can be dangerous and destroy our reputations.

I have been wrestling with this question lately: Is perception reality?

I have to say that I believe perception is reality. Let me explain… Every person has their own reality, which is unique to them. This reality is the culmination of everything they perceive in life. Therefore, perception, though not always based on true facts, becomes the reality of that person.

In PR, perception is everything. A company can have the best intentions when they come out with a statement or a campaign, but they have no control over how the public will perceive it and react. IBM faced some perception issues when they launched their “#HackAHairDryer” campaign in 2015. The company intended for the campaign to support the presence of women in the tech industry and call them to step out from stereotypes of women in this industry.The biggest issue the public had with this campaign was the perception that more women would be in the tech industry if it was “all about girl stuff.”

The campaign backfired and resulted in an apology from IBM to the public:

“The videos were part of a larger campaign to promote STEM careers,” the company told Huffington Post in an emailed statement. (“STEM” refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) “It missed the mark for some and we apologize. It is being discontinued.”’

Clearly, even the best intentions can be taken the wrong way and bring negative attention to a person or company. Although perception is not always based on fact, it is seen as fact in the eyes of a person. The power of perception is arguably more powerful than that of truth.

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