Random Forays | Perception management is the name of the game!

Published on Feb 27, 2022 03:44 AM IST

To be perceived as being powerful or successful or glamorous or witty or charming is probably more important to many of us than actually being any or all of these

Try as he might, Novak Djokovic will never be able to match the popularity of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, despite arguably being a more athletic and complete player across surfaces (Representative Image/ iStock)
Try as he might, Novak Djokovic will never be able to match the popularity of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, despite arguably being a more athletic and complete player across surfaces (Representative Image/ iStock)
ByVivek Atray

No matter which phase of life they are in the midst of, human beings tend to seek acclaim or at least acceptance from fellow men. And in current times, this phenomenon has enhanced itself in level and intensity beyond the imagination.

To be perceived as being powerful or successful or glamorous or witty or charming is probably more important to many of us than actually being any or all of these. Thus, the wannabe CEO will endeavour to impress his company’s board not only with his capabilities but also with his style and panache. The eager young civil servant will surely be keen to create a favourable impression in the eyes and mind of his superiors. The ardent suitor will leave no stone unturned to compel his muse to not only notice him but to be wowed by him.

The key factor in creating a perception among the desired audience or community or person, is clearly, however, not just linked to the impression that one creates. There is obviously more to developing a lasting reputation or image than simply making the right noise or being seen at the right place at the right time. Substance matters and so does quality. 

Thus, a frivolously inclined man about town might be admired for a while by circles which matter to him. But outer faff and chutzpah will only garner some brownie points for a short while. Without hard work and the ability to dive deep into his field of endeavour, whatever that might be, his shallowness might well be quickly exposed.

Yet, some people find it extremely difficult to create the right impression even though they possess quality and class. Take the case of Ravi Shastri, former cricketer who was Team India’s coach till recently. For some reason, despite being a highly successful all-rounder in his time and a coach under whom India achieved some magnificent victories, memories of the crowd booing him while chanting “Shastri Hai Hai!” and memes about some of his alleged wayward habits would never leave him alone. 

Try as he might, Novak Djokovic will never be able to match the popularity of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, despite arguably being a more athletic and complete player across surfaces. His recent stand against vaccination and the imbroglio before the Australian Open have further exacerbated the situation for him. No amount of public relations work will be able to mend the dents in the spectrum of his popularity, going forward. 

While politicians are popular only as punching bags, internet influencers are the rage these days. Even a 12 year old in shorts who has the happy knack of speaking fluently might have more followers on Instagram than a career politician.

Perceptions matter even more for organisations of course. When Cristiano Ronaldo removed a bottle of Coca Cola from a press conference table, the venerable giant lost millions of fans and dollars.

Celebrities can change perceptions and trends simply by dint of a subtle bit of fine tuning in their lifestyle and habits. If Ronaldo starts practising meditation tomorrow, the whole world might truly benefit!

Even some nations are unable to get their perception management right at times. Countries like Russia and China are of course known for their dictatorial ways, whereas Americans are not exactly known to be people who have a high level of general awareness of the rest of the world. Indians have always been known to be sharp and brainy but have struggled to get rid of the image that things often go haywire here and our chaotic traffic is probably not the best ambassador of orderliness any way!

Public relations firms do their best to gloss over the faults of their employers at times, but cannot undo the basics beyond a point. Deep rooted changes in ethos and methodologies are often needed to correct an image perception that has gone awry. I have in the past mentioned that our police force has probably the worst PR, although many police officials are diligent and dedicated in the performance of their duties.

Credibility is not a coincidence, says Mr VK Kapoor, IPS (retd). And the reverse is probably even truer!

vivek.atray@gmail.com

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