Fostering ‘authenticity’ in professional communications is the quickest way to driving better outcomes because so few organisations actually do it
White noise… it’s PR tumbleweed. The old adage, does a tree make a sound when it falls in the woods and no-one is there to hear it, begs one to ponder; when you communicate, by definition, what you say needs to be heard, but what if you are talking and nobody is listening?! This happens for one of two reasons… you are confronted with competitors who have much stronger voices, or… no-one is taking you seriously because you are unbelievable!
The first one is a communications challenge you should revel in – that’s why you are an asset. With a good communications strategy, it doesn’t matter whether you are David or Goliath, you have the tools to get a result. The second reason on its own however is an issue!
As much as people love to have a go at Generation Y, they are pretty savvy. The world is quite literally at their fingertips, so they don’t put up with things that sound sketchy. It’s too easy to cross check and dismiss. With the pervasiveness of social media, people are also much more familiar with a casual sincerity than the marketing of yesteryear which was full of grand, uncorroborated propaganda. If you are not believable, you have a big problem.
Fred Gleeck, a marketing commentator, says upon surveying 2500 seminar attendees, that the most important characteristic of a great speaker is sincerity. No-one will sit and listen, pause and read, sleep and dream about what you have to say, if you are not authentic!
I read some interesting stats produced by HubSpot this week about social media in the last 12 months that help bring this to life:
– 81% of consumers have either un-liked or removed a company’s posts from their Facebook NewsFeed
– 71% of consumers report being more selective about liking a company on Facebook than they were
– 41% of consumers have un-followed a company on Twitter
What it means is too many people think the medium is the message. It’s not.
I’d love to know who comes to mind when you think about inspirational, influential people. For me Martin Luther King and the Dali Lama immediately spring to my mind. Authenticity is what they were/are all about. That is why their words have such sustained power.
So, how do you foster authenticity in professional communications?
Contextualise: Isolated stories fall to the ground like steel leaves. If your goal is to create content that is whisked up by the wind to be carried on to far-away lands by your audience, going viral depends on your ability to make sure that your story is put in relatable terms. Think about how you can reference what you need to say as a counterpoint, or added commentary, to stories that are already resonating. It’s a little like trying to imagine a new colour – close your eyes and try, but all you will ever come up with are derivations of the pallet you’ve already seen. Being new, doesn’t make it exciting. The story telling is what does that.
Use real life examples: The other way to put a story in relatable terms is by using real life examples. The best way to achieve this is in concert with others. We have two eyes and two ears to give us depth of feel. In the same way, realise that information from a single source has far less weight. If you want to sound authentic, show that you have considered other possibilities. Show you have spoken with a range of people and read from a variety of sources to assert what you now understand. Better still, let those sources speak for themselves. Getting someone to listen to your point of view doesn’t always mean they need to hear you speak to understand it.
Recognise the difference between features, advantages and benefits: This is 101 stuff, but it still surprises me how many people miss the point. A feature is a response to a market gap or need. When you understand the market gap or need, you show empathy. With empathy you build a connection with your audience. You need this connection. Without it, the only authenticity you have is the same as the transparency that comes with being a salesperson who shows they don’t care if you are buying or not, only that they know they need to make X amount of cold calls a day to keep their job. Don’t be that guy!
Realise you are a part of the story: This comes back to relationships again. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, or wrote it, or how many times I still will, but one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is ‘people do business with people they like’. Communicating is a business. The only way I’ve ever really seen people be able to create genuine relationships where you can see they are liked, is when you are authentic. That means understanding what part you have to play as an individual in grafting together all the pieces of the story to share it in your own unique way. You are not a robot. It’s a silly realisation, but if you haven’t been made aware of it yet, you best figure it out quickly.