When I was a college resident adviser, my boss would frequently challenge me with the same irksome rhetorical question-- likely because he knew it vexed me, but also because it was an effective way to get me to really think about how I did my job. He'd tilt his head ever so slightly, raise one eyebrow, and say, "Chris, is perception reality?" I always wanted to answer "no," valuing the absolute truth over what might be someone else's incorrect perception of me. Yet I also sensed that the answer was "yes," because someone's perception could often be their only real experience of me.
So is perception reality? For many companies, the answer is certainly yes. Customers and potential customers will define a company's reputation through their collective influence. Whether by word of mouth, written reviews, news stories, or public complaints, the customer's perception is what shapes the reality of a company's reputation.