Communication & perception: How I am responsible for both


Osho, the celebrated Indian guru and spiritual teacher has very famously said

“I am responsible for what I spoke, but not for what you understood”

Well, while it’s true that every individual receives, interprets and perceives information differently, however, I choose to disagree with the above statement. In the new era, one cannot just throw a message into the air and wash his hands off it. One has to be equally responsible for what the other understands, and specifically in business. If one has to ensure maximum success in this 24×7 dynamic cut-throat competitive market scenario amidst so much communication clutter, a marketer has to make sure that his target group has understood his brand message and are on the same bandwidth or page as you in order to avoid any disconnect, rift or fight in the future. Hence Communication needs to be planned and perception of it managed well.

Onus is on the other person to understand

To elaborate on this, when I say that “I am not responsible for what you understand “ this it means that the onus is on me to say what I have to say and on the other person to understand it. Therefore, I am not responsible for the way you interpret what I say.

I believe in choosing my words selectively in such a manner that they are understood. I can’t throw up my hands and pin it all on the listener.  If I do then my business and corporate communication would go haywire. And where would that leave me?

Even in the case of mass media advertising, the advertiser is not supposed to use any language which can be misleading or can have double meaning. The advertiser is also responsible for the consequences of his communications.

You are, therefore, responsible not only for what you say but also for what is understood.  Your responsibility even goes up to your intention in the communication. There is no way this responsibility can be evaded. It can only be evaded at the risk of causing widespread disaster.

What exactly is Communication & Perception?

Communication refers to the act of conveying information, the messages that the business wants to convey about itself and its products to people, while perception is the conceived idea or feeling, i.e. what people actually think or feel about the organization and its deliverables. Well, one can definitely argue that to do business, the more important aspects might be capital and ROI. However, if one does not communicate effectively and if the right perception cannot be created in the minds of the customers through communication, then needless to say, capital would be useless and ROI would be non-existent!

How does Communication affect Perception and why is it important?

While communication is the art of conveying information, perception refers to the conceived image, notion or thoughts in the minds of the customer about a brand or its products. So whether a person will buy a brand depends largely on what he/she feels or perceives about the brand, and what one thinks or feels about a brand has a lot to do with the messages (read communication) that the brand has been communicating to him/her through the various channels.

Types of perception in communication

What one perceives is crucial because for that persons its his/her reality. Perception in Communication in all about how one will communicate and how the other will receive that information and this basically depends on three factors:

  • How one perceives others depends on how he perceives himself
  • A person remembers and recalls those elements which he relates to himself
  • A person rejects the information which he finds in contrast / disagreement with himself.

The main challenge

In today’s world of digital media ruling the global market place, have you ever stopped a moment to think how many messages from how many companies you come across everyday? The main challenge that companies face today is the communication clutter. How does a brand communicate what it has to say to who it has to say it to, through this 24×7 constantly churning massive clutter of communication?? Right from the advertisements on your morning newspapers to the hoardings and posters on your way to work and most importantly the constant digital information and messages flooding you 24×7 through your mobiles, tabs or laptops, the real challenge of businesses lie in getting their messages across so that people perceive them in the way they want them to. Think about it, whether you perceive Nokia mobiles to be the more sturdy ones, Micromax ones to be the low-cost-good-service ones, iphones to be the classiest ones all has a lot to do with the communication each of these brands have sent to us. And the main problem lies specifically in two areas:

  • The intended message is lost in the communication clutter
  • Each person perceives the same message differently depending on his/her personality, past experiences or cultural background

 Way forward

Now that we know how important this is and what are the main challenges, the next question is – what do we do about it? Well, first one needs to realize the importance of communication and perception and the relation of both. Yes, though this might seem to be an automatic and natural process, most of the times people cease to do what’s obvious and end up planning and strategizing more about less important things and go along corporate communication in an unplanned way just for the heck of it or with the attitude of ‘Oh we did it last year, lets do the same this year’.

What is needed is a complete well thought out SWOT of the brand vis-à-vis its competition in the market place and deciding on the kind of perception or identity that it wants to create in the minds of people. Next, strategizing and creating a Communication plan aimed towards hitting the right people at the right time through the right channels and with the right message so as to achieve this perception to the maximum extent possible.

Once you brainstorm and do this religiously, believe you me, half your work is done. The other half consists of implementation and execution and ofcourse sitting back and reaping the fruits of success! The legacy of a great brand story!