ANALYSIS: BIG QUESTION; When is perception more important than reality?

Clive Turner Tobacco Manufacturers Association

Clive Turner Tobacco Manufacturers Association

‘I’d say perception is almost always more important than reality. It’s

easy to deal with perceptions, but trying to explain reality is much

more difficult. The problem with BSE is that it all happened in such a

rush. Once people have a certain perception it is very hard to shift -

it takes time and effort to understand what is really going on. Our role

should be to keep putting across the facts so that eventually the

reality takes the place of myth and perception, but it can be a long

haul. In that sense skilled PR can be enormously effective.’

Nigel Dickie Holmes & Marchant Counsel

‘Perception is only better than reality when the gap between the two is

acceptable and sustainable once the reality is experienced. If the gap

between the perception and the experience of reality is too great and

too significant then there is a very real danger that the communication

skills of the PR professional are devalued and PR is mistrusted.’

Caroline Kinsey McVities’

‘How consumers perceive the brand is the reality. Product quality is

critical but you still have to ensure you communicate the correct

imagery to meet consumer expectations. Once you lose faith in a brand it

is very hard to regain it, as shown by Scoda and Ratners. This is why

corporate brand imagery should always be at the top of the agenda.’

Mark Chataway Interscience

‘Perception is more important than reality as most of the time people

don’t have time to investigate reality. We only recall a small fraction

of what is relevant or most dramatic which is usually the allegation.

The job of crisis management is to minimise what people remember. There

has been a lot of academic study on how people perceive risk but as a

profession we are bad at using this research.’

Julia Hobsbawm Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications

‘A crisis such as the British beef nightmare shows only too well how

perception can overwhelm an issue and become the reality. The industry

faces ruin although several key facts are still largely unconfirmed.

Perception is the headline, behind which lies the full story. Good

public relations anticipates, creates or manages perception as a

reflection of reality. To achieve a balance of both is down to skill,

timing and even luck.’

The Big Question is edited by Lexie Goddard

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