When first meeting with clients, spending significant time engaged in listening is the first step to understanding how to create effective branding or stakeholder relations strategies. Businesses are usually experts in what they do. Maybe it's manufacturing bicycle components or providing financial services, it doesn't matter. The client knows what they doing or they wouldn't be in business. Often these same clients are not experts in how their brand is perceived. Stakeholders, including customers, employees, competitors, and members of the community, either physical or virtual, all have an established set of perceptions that are crucial to understand.
Occasionally when discussing perceptions, particularly negative perceptions that pose a challenge from a stakeholder relations or brand perspective, business leaders tend to become defensive. They offer back ample evidence why the perception isn't reality. They key to moving forward is recognizing perception is the only thing that matters. No amount of evidence to the contrary is useful because all communication strategy must be based on understanding fully the perceptions involved. Regardless of whether the strategy is aimed at increasing sales, building stakeholder goodwill, or any other aspect of brand marketing or stakeholder relations, a viable and effective communication plan will be tightly focused on influencing perception. By not delving too deeply into the reality versus perception argument more resources can be brought to bear on what really matters - reaching objectives.