Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Until recently I thought I was rather tall. Well, maybe not tall, but certainly not short.

I don’t have anything against short people. It’s just that I didn’t realize that I am a short person. I’ve fought against it my whole life, mostly by wearing “tall” clothes and shoes with high heels to increase my stature.

Because I cracked a bone in my foot some time back, I’m now relegated to wearing only flat, comfortable shoes. Now several people to have noted that I’m actually short. This has impacted my perception of myself as a “tall” person. My perception, apparently, doesn’t align with reality.

Businesses are often trapped in similar situations. If you perceive your business in a certain way, you need to make sure periodically that your perceptions are similar to what others see when they look at your business.

There are many ways to accomplish this.

Focus groups, surveys and even informal discussions will help you define how others view your business. When undertaking such activities, it is important to understand what people think, both good and bad. Do your customers and prospects fully understand all that you provide? Do they feel good about their experience with you? Are there things you could be doing, but aren’t? Are there negative factors, that you are unaware of, impacting your success?

When is the best time to ask others about how they perceive your business? Now.

People tend to put off such projects because they are waiting for something else to take place – a new hire, a new location, a new database, a new brand, etc. However, everything you are contemplating will be more successful if you first fully understand how your business is perceived. Understanding your business’s reputation will allow you to fix any areas that may need attention while building upon areas that are key to your success.

I once had an employer who told me that he wasn’t interested in perceptions. After all, he said, perceptions aren’t reality. My perception of him changed quite drastically that day.

In the world of communication and marketing, perceptions are definitely reality. If a perception has been created, whether it is actually true at the core, it is perceived as true and therefore, everyone believes it to be what they perceive. The good thing is that businesses have the power to impact how they are perceived.

So what is perception as it relates to business? It is a concept that encompasses a customer’s impression, awareness and/or consciousness about a company or organization and its offerings. Customer perception is typically impacted by advertising, reviews, public relations, social media, personal experiences and other channels.

Many businesses understand the importance of reputation management. Nothing is more valuable that your reputation. It takes time and thoughtful strategy to build. It takes only a second to ruin. That is why it is critical to take a look from the outside in.

It is also important to remember that actions speak louder than words. Your messaging and actions may not be consistent. In this case, your customers and clients will go by what they experience, not by what they hear.

Often the feedback we receive is surprising. Initially we may not agree with what is being stated. Success lies in objectively listening to what others say. Determining what is useful, and where you can improve will ensure that your bottom line remains strong.

In an attempt to garner feedback concerning my stature I recently asked my husband if he thinks I’m short. Of course, he replied. It wasn’t the feedback I was expecting. It was, however, the truth.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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