It’s said that once something is online, it’s forever, but in modern technology’s vastness there is also the possibility of endless revisions and different perspectives. This makes the truth more liquid than it tends to be in the brick-and-mortar world, and as our business relationships increasingly take place online, it’s no wonder that “transparency” and “authenticity” are currently such buzzwords.
I was recently reading an article that claimed, “authenticity is the most valued commodity in the media world.” From how we eat and shop to how we consume news, anything that can position itself as the real deal is having a real Moment right now. With so much of what we do taking place online and lacking the tactile reassurances of yesteryear, something that’s authentic seems like a safer bet or a better buy. By offering the customer your authenticity, they give you their trust and loyalty.
Authenticity means owning what you are and being transparent about what that does and doesn’t mean. Everything—every corporate office, nonprofit, mom and pop, CEO, copywriter—has its truth. There’s no use in any entity in the public eye trying to be something it’s not because that truth will come out at the speed of the Internet x the level of interest. One of my favorite parts of working in public relations is finding that truth and using it to tell a story that resonates with a given audience. An authentic story is worth so much more both initially and over time than any overwrought gimmick.
Think about what resonates with you, personally.
- For some, Starbucks is a go-to coffeehouse with a Pacific Northwest cool and a clean image; for others it’s a corporate machine that drives authentic local stores out of business (for other examples, see arguments on the merits/evils of Walmart, Barnes & Noble, et al.).
- Some consumers found Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” video thought provoking and poignant; some thought it was emotionally manipulative and didn’t ring true with the sheer size of the company.
The point of these examples is that, while it’s impossible to win over everyone, a public relations strategy based in authenticity is harder to bust than one based on trying to fit a trend. A high percentage of consumers are research-savvy, and debunking a carefully crafted but inauthentic campaign is just a Google away. The solution? Be transparent, be authentic, find the stories in you or your company that are worth telling.