At the Golden Globes ceremony a few months ago, Oprah Winfrey said, “Authenticity is everything, speak your truth!” The context to that speech is a different discussion, but she made a point that’s pertinent to businesses today and more importantly, to their content.
Some of us enjoy listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcasts, and others reading Simon Sinek’s posts. A lot many of us are hooked to what Elon Musk tweets. Why do you think that is? It’s because they keep it personal, authentic and true to their realities.
And that appeals to us.
In today’s business landscape, it’s fair to say that conversions drive revenue and engagement drives conversions; but it’s authenticity that drives engagement. We live in a hyper-connected low-trust world, where consumers are empowered and constantly confronted with myriads of content grappling for their attention. With 86% of global consumers stating authenticity as an important factor in deciding what brands they like and support, the real question is – what content and sources do consumers seek out, trust and find influential; and how businesses can create that.
Be the Brand You Want to See in the World
The word ‘authentic’ traditionally referred to any original work of art. In its literal sense, authenticity is about being true to oneself, maintaining a certain coherence between what one feels and what one conveys or does.
How different is its business definition then, one may ask? Not very.
At its core, authenticity is about having some kind of humanity, even as a business; it is about being consistent in word and deed and having the same fundamental character in different roles. The additional element in the business context is probably that authenticity requires a certain level of transparency, with employees and more importantly, with customers. In his book ‘The Paradox of Authenticity in a Globalized World’, Russell Cobb perfectly articulates how authenticity in the millennial age has become synonymous with ‘truth.’
But why does being authentic even matter?
Only and only because consumers have irrevocably changed the rules of communication in the present day, seeking daily, real-life reminders that they can count on brands.
In defining authenticity, they prioritize ‘high quality’ and ‘delivering on promises’ over ‘social and environmental responsibility’. And the indicators are everywhere – 9 out of 10 consumers here are willing to take action to reward a brand for its authenticity; 52% of these would recommend the brand to others; and 49% would pledge loyalty to the brand. With authentic brands generating nearly 63% higher returns than businesses who aren’t transparent about their products and services, authenticity has become the new normal where brands compete to stand out.
Customers want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, no matter what. Silence begets distrust and suspicion, openness builds trust. – Forbes
This possibly explains why authenticity is driving the modern-day content marketing revolution across businesses and markets. Businesses are striving to align
- what they believe (purpose + values) with
- what they say (visual/verbal communications + story) and
- what they do (products/services/initiatives/promotions)
Silence is not Golden
To be truly authentic, millennials ask of brands a high degree of coherency – over time, between brand promise and its actual delivery; and between the brand identity and the consumers’ identity.
“In the age of social media, authenticity for millennials is characterized by a consistency and continuity between their online personas and their lives in the real world.” – Karl Moore, Authenticity: The Way To The Millennial’s Heart
Freshworks realized and used the power of authenticity in its formative years of business. In the effort to get our content and communication right, we debated, experimented and finally arrived at two key elements to – build our authenticity credentials and create a community of loyal, ardent brand believers.
Here’s what we recommend:
1. Be a Storyteller
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world because there’s always room for a story that can connect with human emotion. We are all storytellers in our own ways and live in a network of narratives. But we seldom apply that skill to create a community. In business, the real purpose of storytelling boils down to this – address a specific need and/or connect with customers’ interests.
The Freshworks rebranding story perfectly exemplifies the power of transforming persuasive storytelling into a key business competency, eventually building empathy and a sense of shared feeling among employees and customers. To get here, we followed a few simple principles that any business, big or small, can follow:
- Tell stories that explain as much about who you are as what you do
- Tell stories that matter
- Tell stories that contain empathy and emotion
2. Be Purpose Consistent
Who cares about purpose? Your customers do. And so do your employees. A five-year study on this suggests that ‘purpose’ is the number one thing that customers care about when price and quality are equal. And it doesn’t stop there. Purpose and authenticity matter to your employees more than you imagine – a recent study by Deloitte found that over 80% of employees working at a company with a strong sense of purpose were confident that their company would grow in the coming year.
The trick is to understand that purpose is not a tactical decision or a short-term campaign. It’s a more permanent commitment that a business makes to represent itself and its every action. Over time, many companies become overly focused on short term financial results and this can cause them to lose touch with the thing that got them into business in the first place. They lose sight of the purpose that drove the brand to begin with. The answers to the questions “why are we here and why should customers care?” are the most crucial to your content and marketing strategy. They ensure you stay in touch with your roots and stand as constant reminders to your brand’s character.
Freshworks’ business vision of delivering happy customer experiences across channels has been campaign consistent in a proven, demonstrated reality. The Freshdesk mint experience is one of the many real-world credible connections between the company’s purpose of powering exceptional customer service and its evolving culture.
Today, every forward-thinking leader wants to inject authenticity into business in some form. Being authentic is no longer a strategic advantage to some but a competitive necessity to most. It’s a simple rule, really. If your brand is brave enough to breathe authenticity, people will connect with you, engage more, and even support you. In a fabricated world of spun messages and concocted experiences, elevating a brand above the fray requires a mix of integrity, relevance and connect. And being authentic is how you can get there, sooner!