Perception management has been an integral part of all public relation activities. However, with the boom in social media and internet technologies, perception management has taken a whole new direction. There are now many more outlets to gauge public opinion that there were in the past. Interestingly, Facebook has hired a person whose full full-time job is to keep minute-per-minute track of Mark Zuckerberg’s public perception.
When Tavis McGinn, an ex-Google employee, who worked with Google’s marketing team went to join Facebook. However, instead of a marketing position – he was offered a unique job. He now tracks the public opinion of Mark Zuckerberg. This was in the April of 2017, which was just off of the heels of the 2016 US Presidential elections where Facebook was heavily blamed.
“It was a very unusual role,” McGinn says. “It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him. That’s especially important outside of the United States.”
Tavis works with an advanced level of research methodology. It isn’t just about if people like Zuckerberg or not. It’s a more detailed level of research. This involves the kind of reactions that people give to different speeches he delivers or the kind of response his opinion on a particular topic generates.
In the past, Facebook had conducted a similar sort of research for Sheryl Sandberg. McGinn comments on why it is always important to be aware of the public perception of Zuckerberg. “Facebook is Mark, and Mark is Facebook,” McGinn says. “Mark has 60 percent voting rights for Facebook. So you have one individual, 33 years old, who has basically full control of the experience of 2 billion people around the world. That’s unprecedented. Even the president of the United States has checks and balances. At Facebook, it’s really this one person.”