This slightly edited version was originally published on leavinthebigsmoke.
En mass we are transitioning into being more open, more honest, more willing to be exposed as our whole selves. As consumers we’re demanding honesty. Social Media has created an increased desire to form a ‘relationship’ with who we do business with. Gone are the days of spin and propaganda and in their place is the time of authenticity and connection… Or is it?
In business my past tendency has been to hide behind a brand or a company, speak as a ‘we’ and an ‘us’ rather than an ‘I’. Social Media has changed the dynamics of business relationships. Now we want to know who we are doing business with. We don’t just want to know what the company stands for, what their mission and vision are. We want to know about the individual we are dealing with. And part of this is being willing to ‘share’ yourself with the world and ultimately your prospective clients or customers.
It can feel a little exposing at first to step up from behind your brand façade and become the brand yourself. But at the end of the day people are buying ‘you’, not just your product or service.
This is happening in all levels of business. Think of Richard Branson for example. What would Virgin be without Richard? Just another multinational conglomerate. The positive attributes of his adventurous, philanthropic, never-say-never personality get transposed to his companies and thus create positive PR. On the other hand Rupert Murdoch’s perceived ‘negative’ traits are effecting the public perception of his media empire.
Contemporary marketing is all about relationship building. So where then is the balance between authenticity and public perception management? I think in the past it was mostly spin. PR could totally construct your (mostly) corporate image in alignment with whatever perception you were after. Or sell anything based on clever manipulation. Mad Men is a fantastic series that takes a poke at the unscrupulous ad men of the 60’s. And exploration of the manipulative power of media.
In the late ’80’s Noam Chomsky co-wrote the seminal “Manufacturing Consent-The Political Economy of the Mass Media” which discussed media propaganda.
I feel that as a populus we are now more discerning and better critical thinkers. Most of us know that the news is not the facts, it’s subjective opinion based on vested interests. At the same time there’s further pressure on the media to be objective or face exposure.
So what is happening now is increasingly we are feeling the pull to be more ‘wholly’ ourselves and likewise there is demand from the market for authenticity and connection. Authenticity is the new black!
So the challenge now is how much honesty? How much openness? How much information? How much laying yourself bare?
Personally, I really admire someone who, despite their success, is willing to be vulnerable, admit to flaws and failure but still keep moving forward, improving what they do. It is this openness that allows the building of trust between you and your clients.
I think the highest form of business success is the ability to win your audience with authenticity, with the vested interest being the communication of your value to the customers who can positively benefit from what you got.
So it seems we may be as a populus, transitioning out of spin, propaganda and façade towards authenticity, vulnerability and ultimately courage… To be ourselves. To stand up in front of the world naked. Showing all, hiding nothing.
What do you think? Is this really what’s going on in the new business world or is it just a more sophisticated breed of propaganda?
Grab your free guide to writing (authentic) winning words here!
Refer to my recent post Split Personality (Disorder?) for a further discussion of related themes.
LEONIE ORTON is a business writer and marketer.
She extracts your thoughts, gives them structure
and then converts them into words that are heard.
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