Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Perception is a PR tool

In my promised series of brief examinations of the application of cognitive psychology as applied to the practice of Public Relations, I have dealt with memory and attention. Now it is time to examine perception.

Cognitive psychologists say that we carry a model or personal image of the world, relationships and other concepts around with us. As the senses provide information we adjust this perception to arrive at cognitive consistency, (and resolve cognitive dissonance).

Cognitions are defined as being an attitude, emotion, belief or value, or even a mixture of these. I have covered emotion and value already and will return to attidue and belief at a later time.

From a PR perspective the role public relations plays is in identifying the tokens and values within networks that have sufficient resonance with a person's perceptions (when they use their senses e.g. read something or hear something etc.) such that they pay attention. The PR process then has to offer tokens and values in an appropriate social frame which adds the campaign 'messages' to the understanding or personal model of the recipients. When this is done in such a way that both the organisation and the recipients gain an added value or understanding, the PR campaign will have been effective. Both parties will have a new understanding and new values. On the one hand the organisation will have gained an empathetic understanding and relationship with the recipients (publics) values and the recipients will better undestand the organisation and messages.

In participating with people's endless modelling and re-modelling of their internal view of the world, public relations, in the Relationship Value Model, adds values of interest and significance .

PR helps people understand the world.