How to Turn Industry Misperceptions into Education Opportunities

Turning lemons into lemonade is a skill that any PR or marketing agency should have. At the end of the day, any press is good press, right? As professionals in the lemonade-making business, the answer is yes – and no: ‘yes’ because press presents opportunities; ‘no’ because if you fail to capitalize on negative press – or a misperception being perpetuated – the effects are typically not positive.

For companies playing in industries constrained by misperceptions, negative attention can submarine a Strategic Narrative before it even gets off the ground. However, companies that can translate an industry misperception into a bona fide educational opportunity not only grab the attention of industry thought-leaders, but wrest control of the industry narrative as well. That’s turning lemonade into gold.

Take Microsoft, for example. The average consumer may identify Microsoft as just a software company. Perhaps that was true in the past, but over the last half decade, Microsoft has repositioned itself as a services company. The same average consumer may say, “What the heck is a ‘services’ company?” to which Microsoft could respond by demonstrating the breadth of tools, platforms and hardware it provides, and that consumer now (in a perfect world) understands the difference between a software company and services company.

Microsoft is an example of a single company’s misperception, but the same point can be applied to the non-behemoths wrestling for a share of the same services space. Microsoft took a misperception and parlayed it into better visibility for both a company and an industry.

To take that example up to a higher level, look at it from just a software standpoint. Is software just something that lives on a computer or a smart phone? The average user may think so. But in reality, industry players know that “software is eating the world.” Companies that understand this industry misperception can use content-driven campaigns to educate consumers about all the ways software affects their lives on a daily basis beyond the annoyance of a crashing Snapchat app.

One of the key points in developing a Strategic Narrative is taking a realistic look at your industry and identifying what some of the key misperceptions are. Without understanding the ‘why,’ you can’t tell anyone about the ‘what.’ Within this framework, it’s also necessary to understand that when turning a misperception into an educational opportunity, your company is doing so for the greater good of the industry. By adding a constructive element that isn’t just about your company, you’ve opened the conversation to others within the industry – and people are more willing to listen when they feel they also have a voice.

The Microsoft example above demonstrates an instance where a company decided not to allow itself to get bogged down in the struggle of defending against a misperception. Instead, it embraced the misperception and used it as an opportunity to say, “yes, we’re a software company and we do this…” It turned a weakness into a strength, and it dragged two siloed industries – software and services – into a new categorization that positioned the company as thought leaders and redefined the parameters of the conversation. Pretty tasty lemonade, right?

The educational opportunities that industry misperceptions potentially represent are foundational building blocks to the Strategic Narrative that any company should strive for. In fact, the process of developing a Strategic Narrative depends on the ability to take an objective perspective on the industry and align trends and misperceptions with the intent of the narrative. For PR and marketing professionals, understanding how to harness these tools can open up entirely new avenues for market recognition and leadership.