What did you see?
Clearly, the colors are white and gold. How could anyone see even a tinge of black or blue? I’m referring, of course, to a photo posted on social media last week by a young woman in Scotland asking the world, quite literally, to identify the color of a dress worn by a guest at a wedding. The question – and ensuing answers – elicited such passion and consternation that a war of words broke out on line before the scientists explained how two people, looking at the same image, may perceive color differently depending on our interpretation of ambient light cues. To those who saw white and gold – the dress is, in fact, black and blue – though, no explanation will suffice. What they perceive is absolute.
A silly Internet moment, perhaps, but for business owners it’s a lesson in marketing: perception, like it or not, is reality.
Even isolated incidents hurt
A friend of a friend had his car stolen recently in one of Detroit’s hip neighborhoods. His was one of five vehicles missing last Saturday night when their owners returned from dinner; is there a more surreal sight than seeing that empty parking space? Bar and restaurant owners, as well as city officials, talk about safety and isolated incidents, and how they’ll address this problem. Duly noted, but my friend shared with me a few days ago that he’s taking a pass on downtown excursions for the short term.
An “incident” like that can bedevil even the most successful entertainment or retail venue. “Incident,” by the way, is public relations-speak for a crime, the news of which can be hard to contain what with word of what happened, along with photos – cell phone cameras captured every detail – trending online before the police arrive.
Close behind an “incident” in terms of PR fires to extinguish are filing bankruptcy, losing a major tenant, or being the victim of a boycott. Once the smoke clears, though, it’s time to assess the damage. What is difficult to put a price tag on, though, is the psychological cost such events have to the reputation of a business. The matter at hand includes soothing the jitters of now-wary customers and employees that it’s safe to visit, and that a bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean a business will soon go bust.
The power to change perception, then, is solely in the hands of a business.
Changing the conversation
“Business owners have an obligation to shape how their businesses and products are perceived as well as the perceptions of where they’re located,” explained Daniel Cherrin, a crisis communication expert and partner in Birmingham-based M10 Integrated Marketing and Communications.
He added, “If you aren’t defining the perception you want [customers] to have, then [the customers] are defining you based on their perception … even if they’re wrong, they’re still right.”
If the perception is defined by crime for example, Cherrin suggested any message should focus on how people can be safe. “Determine if it was an isolated incident, was it unrelated to the business … crime does happen … look at how it happened and then say what steps you’re taking to prevent it from happening in future.”
Businesses can do this on their own via social media, Cherrin said, but a more productive approach is to create a larger campaign by partnering with neighboring merchants or business associations.
Finally, Cherrin recommended tapping into a social capital account to draw patrons. That is, the investment of time and money a business has given to the community.
“Proactively investing in goodwill means people get to know you as a person and not only an owner. And if something does happen to your business, people will be more bothered that it happened to you … and they’ll be supportive and want to continue doing supporting you.”
The fight to change perception might leave some black and blue marks, but it’s one too important to ignore.
See more at evening dresses melbourne