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  • Writer's pictureShellene Drakes

Buzzword Wednesday: What does ‘authenticity’ really mean?

So if you know anything about me, you know that I don’t like jargon and buzzwords. I guess it comes from spending so much time in meeting rooms listening to people regurgitate words like ‘synergy’ or ‘leverage’.

I don’t like them for a few reasons. The main one is that the words don’t ring true because a lot of the time they aren’t true. Not everyone is a thought leader. Not everyone is disrupting business. Not everyone is authentic.

What’s really good?

Let’s take ‘authentic’ for example. For a really long time, business people have been using the word ‘authentic’ to describe their business practices, their leadership style, and their brands.

Unfortunately, it’s a catchphrase for most because they don’t live up to the word.

How can I say this so assuredly? Let’s be honest: most companies are copying another company. Company A’s CEO does a weekly video about how she gets in the plant with the team, so Company B’s leader wants to do something similar to show that he, as well, is a person of the people…but the difference is Company A’s CEO really does enjoy spending time with her employees in the plant and learning from them. Company B’s leader is pretending to care about his employees, but anyone who knows him knows he doesn’t care about anything except profits.

There’s a disconnect there. It’s inauthentic. It’s insincere. It’s not genuine.

Be honest. Be yourself.

So why are the words ‘authenticity’ and ‘authentic’ thrown all up and through your marketing material? Probably because everyone else is doing it. I’d challenge you that if you aren’t interested in truly creating an authentic brand with authentic people, just stop using the word.

Communicating honestly is key to authenticity. Are you truly being honest with yourself? Are you speaking in ways your clients understand? Are you taking responsibility for mistakes and communicating solutions with your clients? (See almost every airline during the holiday season and their lack of communication skills.)

Or are you just sprinkling the word ‘authentic’ throughout your copy to sound authentic?

A couple of authenticity tips—I mean, if you’re going to use the word, let’s try to represent it properly:

  • Be true to yourself and your brand. It’s not just about what your leadership thinks or what your favourite leader online is doing or saying. If I asked your clients and employees what your brand is about, what would they say? Ultimately, it’s about what clients and employees say—they are your largest brand ambassador group. Do you claim to be authentic, honest, and sincere, but your clients and employees say something different?

  • Make sure your content paints a realistic picture of your brand. We’ve all worked for companies whose website made them out to be the best thing since sliced bread—only to be hired and shocked to find out that what we were told was extremely different than what we were sold. That’s a bigger problem that communicating with poorly chosen words, but it will destroy your brand. Some brands and businesses are stronger than others and can withstand some harsh talk. Can yours?

  • Stop copying your fave. While we all have people in business who we look up to and admire, you can’t be their twin. Who are you? What is your unique selling point? How are you different? It matters because when you pretend to be someone you aren’t, you come off as fake. Totally inauthentic, yes? Yes.

People prefer to get to know the real you vs. the person you think they want to hear from. This month, I’m challenging you to look at your copy and see if you are really being authentic—or are you an imposter? Be better, don’t be fake.

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