You Are How Others Perceive You

Flickr - Playing with mirrorsIf you had to describe yourself/your company, would it map to how others’ perceive you/your company?

This concept of “how others perceive you” is not a new one; however, sometimes we all need to be reminded that it doesn’t really matter what we think of ourselves or our organization (not really). What’s important is how other’s view us.

Humor me as I take you through 3 examples of what I mean.

Your Company is Not Cool

Chris Penn, Blue Sky Factory‘s VP of Strategy and Innovation recently penned (pun intended) a post titled, “Cool, fun, awesome, amazing, and other things you’re not.” In this article Penn discusses his pet peeve about marketers who “append the word cool (or its variants) to any marketing effort.” Penn states, “nothing you ever do is cool.” I love this! The post continues by offering ways to encourage your fans, evangelists, clients (etc) to ensure that your product/service is “cool.”

Chris’s post got me thinking. It doesn’t matter if you think your junk is cool. Who cares? I mean, I hope you think that the company you work for and the product/service that you sell is killer. If not, why bother, right? But it doesn’t matter what you think. What is important is that your customers or clients or prospects think it’s worthy of purchase.

May I give you a bit of feedback?

That was the Direct Message (private message on Twitter) that I received the other day. It was sent by someone I’ve been following for a few months. I’ve never met this individual, but it turns out we have many friends in common. We’ve interacted a few times on Twitter, but that’s about all. Long story short, this person offered me feedback about some of the words I was including in my tweets. The abbreviated feedback was as follows.

I *really* like your stream and presence. I’ll dm why now & then as inspired. But- “[the term I was using]” etc, sucks. Taints rest of a great pro stream

I explained to him why I was using “the term.” As it turns out, it was an inside joke. The problem was that (duh!) Twitter is very public; therefore my inside joke was lost to those not “on the inside.” Taking a step back and reading – out of context – what I adding to my Twitter stream, I was taken aback. Yikes! He was right. Lesson learned.

So, again, it didn’t matter what I thought. How others’ perceived me was more important.

Campbell-Ewald’s About Us Page

Let’s face it. Most company “About Us” pages suck. They are peppered with corporate-speak, buzzwords, and “this is why we are awesome” words and phrases. (Blue Sky Factory recently modified ours to be more interesting). Recently, I was looking at my friend Dave Linabury’s company site, Campbell-Ewald. Click on their “about us/the company” link. Pretty cool, right? For those that didn’t actually do as instructed (go to their site, click on the link), it pulls up the Campbell-Ewald Wikipedia page. They included some fancy code on the page which allows the wiki to pull up within the C-E site. Either way, wow! Click around a bit more and you’ll see that “culture” points to their Facebook Fan page, “case studies” goes to their YouTube channel, etc etc.

What I love about this is that Campbell-Ewald (thanks, Dave!) is allowing the community to showcase the company … in real time. They are letting their fans, clients, and customers tell the world what C-E is all about. Perception vs. reality. Brilliant.

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All of this being said, there’s always a balance. Some people will love you for what you say/do/write, while others will hate the same content. Balance. Common sense. Thinking before you speak.

What do you think? Do you have other examples to share about perception – either personal or corporate?

Flickr Photo: lenore-m

DJ Waldow
@djwaldow

15 comments
Ricardo Bueno
Ricardo Bueno

I was surfing through the blogosphere the other day (blogs I'm subscribed and more). I came across a business blog that was pretty well designed (professional looking) and had written a good post. Then, I looked off to the right-hand side and saw the person's Tweet stream linked. Their most recent tweet made a comment to the effect of: "Be thankful there are a lot of morons out there..."

I'm sure it was a joke and I took it out of context. But when you think about it, it doesn't matter. First impressions matter (a lot). And in this particular case, it didn't leave a very good one (joke or not).

Anyway, it just got me thinking...

ryancmiller
ryancmiller

DJ,

I liked this post a lot - and it's a good reminder of how much your own opinion doesn't matter. But I think there has to be a distinction made between perceptions and feedback from your audience and those who are outside your audience.

I remember playing a gig several years ago at this bar and after a song one guy came right up to the front and said he'd give us 10 bucks is we promised to stop playing. That hurt. But there were also tons of other instances of positive feedback. So I think it's a balancing act between taking criticism from people who want to help you get better and those who just want to tear you down. The challenge sometimes is knowing how to tell the difference. I think it was Gary V who talked about 'not caring what anyone thinks...but care about what everyone thinks.' Good advice.

Nauman
Nauman

Not much 'cool'. Although nice but examples are old.

sue_anne
sue_anne

DJ - I think there are some people that can get away with being irreverant and even a bit crass. Take a look at @johnhaydon ... especially on Friday afternoons. But, he's like that all the time and its somewhat expected. It's also interesting to me how people balance how they are in person vs Twitter / blogging. Chris Brogan gets away with things in person that I don't think he'd get away with on Twitter or on his blog. Certain things don't translate well in the written word -- especially when that's condensed down to 140 characters.

It's good that you, personally, are open to feedback and using that feedback to make you a better person. As people who represent brands, that's important. A lot of the negative case studies on brands using social media have one or two things in common - either the brands weren't listening to what was being said about them or they were listening and instead of using negative comments as an opportunity for growth, they respond defensively or get snarky (in the case of Nestle and the Facebook fiasco).

Wautasha
Wautasha

"It's not what you say, it's what they hear" -Red Auerback

Matthew Glidden
Matthew Glidden

So, again, it didn’t matter what I thought. How others’ perceived me was more important.

Passes right along to your personal connections, too. Ideally, there's an inner voice asking whether each tweet, Facebook post, and blog entry matches up to how you want to be known. Just about everything sits in a context far larger than we can guess at the moment of posting!

Mercury
Mercury

I really liked your post DJ. The only way we can learn about ourselves and our companies/products is through the eyes of others/customers. It's humbling to have someone from time to time say, "You know what? You/your product is not THAT great!" I think the key is to take in all types of information and learn from it whether painfully critical or surprisingly nice. I think there are benefits to getting both types of comments. A little humility is good for brands (and people).

Unfortunately, I think a lot of companies still sit on on soap boxes and aren't "listening" to these types of comments. It doesn't matter what you as a company think of your brand, it has been, is and always will be about customers.

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