What is Perception Management?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Perception management is a type of strategy that is aimed at guiding the motives, emotions, and conclusions of another party by means of using different approaches to alter that party’s perception of past events and the projections of future events. This particular type of strategy has been used in military operations in attempts to gain advantages over enemies, and has also found use in the business world among competitors. The goal is to alter the perception of the opposing party in a way that provides the manager with an advantage that can be used successfully to score a victory or otherwise defeat that opposing party.


There is some difference of opinion regarding whether the task of perception management must remain firmly rooted in the use of verifiable information that is presented in a manner that is likely to trigger the desired outcome, or if the strategy allows for the selective use of certain facts while ignoring others or even leaving room for the inclusion of data that is questionable. For those that focus on the use of verifiable data only, the task is to assess all the available information, then determine the best way to present those facts in a way that is likely to cause recipients to react in a certain manner. Sometimes referred to as spinning, here the focus is not on attempting to mislead per se, but instead to call more attention to certain bits of information while downplaying the importance of others. When successful, this approach has the benefit of having provided all the information, although in a format that definitely slanted the point of view in a specific direction.

At other times, the process of perception management includes the selective use of available data. In this scenario, certain facts are presented completely and concisely, while others are either presented only in part of are left out altogether. Doing so makes it easier to create a particular perception that can be sold to consumers, the citizens of a given country, or to a rival of some sort, assuming the opposing party is not privy to and does not discover the omissions.

The ethics of perception management are also a point of controversy. Proponents of the strategy in any of its forms note that this type of tool can be used to accomplish a greater good that might not be possible if a perception other than the one desired were to prevail. Opponents to perception management prefer that all relevant data be presented without prejudice in terms of assigning priority or value to any portion of the data, allowing the parties involved to engage in the prioritization as they see fit. With this tool being effective in terms of business competition, reaching consumers, and even in the political arena, perception management is likely to remain a viable strategy in many walks of life.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


It's hard to believe that any form of "perception management" that is not based on providing all relevant facts without prejudice has any followers at all. Unethical doesn't begin to describe the people who think it is fine and dandy to obscure some facts, inflate others and make up a few new ones along the way in pursuit of some vaguely defined "public good." Implementing that kind of strategy can do nothing but result in a slippery slope and, heck, that slope is pretty darned greasy when it is first built.

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