Perception:  The process, act, or result of becoming  
aware of through the senses.  The ability to perceive; 
insight or understanding. (The American Heritage  
Dictionary, 1983, p. 508-509) 

 According to Johnson and Sherman (1990), there is a relationship between our perceptions, memories, knowledge, and beliefs with true reality.  Johnson (1998) suggests that this relationship is not a simple one and that with every experience we have, we are faced with the dilemma of who we are, our relations with others, the judgements we conclude, and the decisions we make.  According to Johnson (1998) perceptions of an experience are influenced by previous knowledge and interpretations.   
 With the complexity of this phenomenon, it is no wonder that companies are constantly changing strategies when attempting to satisfy consumers.  What every successful mass-market company has come to realize is that whatever the customer perceives to be right is what is right.  The customer and their perceptions may be crazy, but none of that matters and they are always right. (PC Week, 1995).   
 More and more, these companies are inventing advertising strategies to change the negative perceptions of consumers.  Take for example airports, and the perception that there are long waiting times between flights.  As a marketing strategy used to aid in this perception, airports now offer putting greens (Palm Springs), massage and aromatherapy centers (Heathrow) and meditation rooms  
(Miami) (Gershman, 1995).  Another example is the Saturn car company.  Saturn spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a marketing campaign that would persuade consumers to perceive the company as a different kind of car company  (PC Week, 1995).  Shortly after spending all this money, Saturn discovered a dangerous electrical problem in approximately 300,000 cars.  Faced with the dilemma of ruining their image with the American public, they devised a strategy to maintain current perceptions.  They sent drivers out to pick up the cars, held barbecues for the consumers, and took buyers to the movies while their cars were being fixed.  With this strategy, Saturn was able to maintain the public’s perceptions that Saturn truly was a different kind of car company (PC Week, 1995). 
 Advertising has also been used in order to manipulate current perceptions. Reis (1994) was interested in the use of anti-drug advertising and the impact on youths’ perceptions.  The results of this study showed that the anti-drug advertising campaign was successful.  92% of the 837 students surveyed said they perceived an increase in their knowledge of drugs; 60% gained stronger beliefs about the dangers of drugs; 52% developed more negative attitudes toward drug users; and 75% stated that they had decreased, stopped, or been convinced never to use drugs (Reis, 1995). 
Military Perceptions  
The belief is that there is a negative perception of today’s U.S. military. Could such perceptions have been influenced by the scandalous events that  
occurred in the recent years, including Lieutenant Kelly Flinn’s adulterous dismissal, General Ralston’s withdrawal of Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Aberdeen’s sexual abuse scandal to the cheating, car stealing, and drug trafficking at the Naval Academy?  All these events could be seen as free “advertising” for the military (Foster, 1998).  It is possible that this type of advertisement has negatively changed perceptions of the military within the American society. 
 Recruiting shortfalls and the resulting personnel shortages are a vital concern to everyone in the military. Public affairs has as important a role to play in this problem as any career field. Much of the public’s perceptions about the military comes from information presented on the evening news and in the morning newspaper. While public affairs cannot control the information that goes out to the general public, it does play a role in shaping that information. Opportunities can be taken to draw attention to the “good news” stories in the military, and also to lessen the negative effects of the inevitable “bad news” stories. 
 The focus of the military should shift to studying what society’s perceptions are of the military.  With this study, the military can begin to look at public affairs campaigns in order to possibly relieve the demands of recruiting and retention. Theories of organizational communication can be used to  
assist in designing an adequate project to measure perceptions as well as aid in a resolution for the problem. 

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