Filling the “Perception Hole”

The Black Hole at the Center of the Universe (public domain photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)
The Black Hole at the Center of the Universe (public domain photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)

The “Perception Hole” or “Perception Gap” occurs when your organization begins developing a negative reputation about an issue and refusing to take the time to respond to the incoming attacks. This is a situation that many organizations, large and small, will have to deal with in the future if they haven’t already. Especially in an online world where anyone with a Chromebook and a Smartphone can logically argue that they are a part of “The Media.”

One often cited view is that it’s not worth the effort to respond to people online, because people online can say whatever they want. That’s exactly why you have to respond to negative situations, online or offline. If your organization doesn’t respond to an attack, you continue to look guilty – that you’re unwilling to push back against the “slings and arrows” thrown at you because they are true.

Why else would you stay quiet? People expect you or your organization to assertively and positively respond to false allegations against it. The public has become immune to the “no comment” defense, or the “we settled and can’t talk about it defense,” and the media hates it even more – at times looking for ways to circumvent this “defense.” They know that if you settle an argument and then force everyone to shut up about it, you bought people’s silence, and don’t look innocent in the eyes of the public.

One example of this is Microsoft after they released Windows Vista. They were plagued at first by many of the bugs and incompatibilities that came with Vista, along with many high expectations that were not achieved. Microsoft was then stymied by Apple’s very successful “I’m a Mac” advertising campaign, which took advantage of this lack of a response.

(Imagine what could have been if Ubuntu had been a little more polished by this point, but I digress).

Much to the chagrin of Microsoft fans (of which there are many)), it took Microsoft far too long to decide they needed to punch back, which they did quite well with the Mojave Project and later with their “I’m a PC” campaign. However, the latter of these campaigns occurred much too late to change the prevailing opinion about Windows Vista – that it was a disastrous release for the company.

You need to push back. A rumor that is left unresponded to long enough becomes a “fact” and the longer that you don’t respond to attacks the more guilty you look. It’s not enough to argue that just because something is located online that it doesn’t matter. Of course you have to prioritize your targets, but you can no longer hide your head in the sand when bad news hits.

How would your organization stem a rising tide of negative perception?

Remember, any rumor left unanswered becomes a fact in the public’s eyes.

(Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institute)

Author: Benson Hendrix

Benson Hendrix, APR has been called everything from a “social media zen warrior” to the ” ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper of Public Relations,” and from a “behind the scenes powerbroker,” to “the loudmouth PR love child of Henry Rollins and Anthony Bourdain,” but doesn’t really believe any of it (except maybe the “Rowdy” Roddy Piper part). Hendrix is the Social Media Manager for the University of New Mexico and loves helping organizations and people tell the stories that are important to them. He is also an adjunct social media instructor at the University of New Mexico, and the Social Media Strategist for TEDxABQ. In the few minutes a week he calls "spare time," he relaxes with his wife and chases his dream to be a better photographer.

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