Raynard Jackson, president and CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC, talked about the essence of marketing and PRduring his speech on Sept. 8, 2015, at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Jackson used the words of Harry Houdini to describe PR and marketing: “What the eyes see, and the ears hear, the mind believes.”
There is also a more particular version of this perspective: “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you,” said Douglas Adams, an English author, comic radio dramatist, and musician.
It tells us marketers and PR practitioners that, in a diversified world, everyone has a unique perception of a company and its products, and their perceptions primarily determined the success or failure of the company. David Meerman Scott said in his book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”: “The most important thing to remember as you develop a marketing and PR plan is to put your products and services to the side for just a little while and focus your complete attention on the buyers of your products.”
Both quotes address the same concern when marketers and PR people are discussing customer perception of an organization. Knowing your audience and getting familiar with them before developing any plan will ensure every step you placed afterward precisely and efficiently.
As a marketer or PR practitioner, we have to see every customer as a human first and understand that people tend to expose themselves to various messages or stimuli that are by their already existing interests and opinions, which is one of the hardest parts of public relations. We need to know our target audience’s perception of our organization, and we need to use that information to adjust our communication strategy and the message from their perspectives so as to shape their perceptions. However, it’s even more difficult for us to realize this goal in today’s media environment. Today, everyone is a reporter. Except hundreds of print media outlets and TV programs supplying news, people are using more channels than ever to publish their opinions and first-hand news. Keeping up with this outflow of opinions is crucial for the sake of an organization’s brand image and customer satisfaction of a product or service.
This week, in Professor Britt’s writing class, I learned to use Storify, which allows users to search through multiple social networks from one platform and re-order content or posts to create a context for organizations or clients, which is a way to discover people’s perception of an organization. I used it to collect public perceptions of Oracle’s new unlimited database license, PULA. The experience of using it was very simple but also very enlightening. The result hit me between the eyes and made me aware that social media truly catalyzed so many kinds of customer perceptions. Organizations such as Oracle should pay more attention to these platforms moving forward.
(Picture credit: http://www.brainlesstales.com/2012-05-29/keep-an-eye-out-for-danger)
It is evident that if Oracle had used Storify, the company will have a better handle on issues spreading would have transpired. Take Oracle’s new offering PULA as an example; I believe Oracle’s marketing or PR team had never thought of getting this result from their very technical and professional service, which is all because of its name, a crucial element of a new service. Someone found that “PULA” had a very embarrassing meaning related to sexuality in Romanian, and this finding spread all over the social network in a very short period. This was a very weird but very possible perception generated among Internet users. This perception was not only drawing people’s attention away from the real benefits the service can bring to customers but also gave customers an incorrect perception of Oracle and its new service. Relating to what I previously quoted, the public believes what they hear and what they see; particularly on certain topics they already have an interest in. The public discussed this accidental perception for a while, which created an unwanted “rememberable selling point” of PULA to its customers.
As a well-known leading company in the business-to-business technology field, Oracle never expected this accident, but it still happened. This is the power of social media. Traditional media will probably focus on the effects to company’s business, its competitors or something related to product/service itself, but there is always a leak in social media. Using tools to monitor customer perceptions will help manage unwanted problems before they become uncontrolled.