Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Perception Is Reality

I followed the Twitter back-channel commentary that ran alongside both last week’s five-man and yesterday’s three-man leadership debates on RTE. (We are currently in the run up to a General Election here in Ireland.) It is insightful and eye-opening to see just how much the preconceptions people bring with them effect their interpretations of such a shared communal events.

If you look back over the #rtedeb Twitter stream and you will mostly find alternating Tweets giving diametrically opposite comments about each participant’s performance. One viewer’s “statesmanlike demeanor” is another’s “wooden immobility”. Every robust exchange on-screen is followed by a flurry of tweets counterpointing “MM really stuck it to him there” with “MM is acting like a petulant schoolboy again”. The pattern was repeated for all of the leaders and for all of their points raised.

I have to acknowledge the self-selecting aspect of the set of people choosing to comment on such political debates in real-time. That many have also chosen to declare their political allegiance in their Twitter avatars suggests a higher than average level of political engagement offline. Unfortunately it also reveals (to me) a disinclination to see all sides of the debate.

It is disappointing how predictable the responses are. How refreshing it would be for someone with an Fine Gael-flavoured avatar to say, for example, that Gilmore made the better argument about some point. (Particularly when market research and the prevailing mood both indicate a Fine Gael/Labour coalition as the preferred electoral outcome.) Surely no-one has the monopoly on good ideas?

Applying these observations to my own area of expertise, one has to ask what preconceptions are people bringing with them when they think about your brand?
— Who tends to always see you in a good light, no matter what your failings?
— Who always sees you in a negative way, despite your best efforts to explain otherwise?
— How do you address each of those audiences?
— Which do you spend most of your time focusing on?
Something worth pondering on.