What Does It Mean To Be Authentic?

What Does It Mean To Be Authentic

Authenticity has been a buzzword in branding for a long time. I say buzzword because it’s the kind of word that people roll their eyes at when they hear it. But why do we find the idea of authenticity in branding so cringe worthy? We say we want it and we believe we know what it is when we see it. Is it because we feel that authenticity should be second nature by now? Are the companies that fill our media spaces continuing to prove themselves to be tone deaf? Or, are we collectively expressing the trauma from generations of predatory marketing to such a degree that we express ardent cynicism to the very notion of vulnerability. 

Our understanding of authenticity has undergone quite a maturation over the last decade. Carried forward on the works of thought leaders like research professor Brene Brown, the recognition of the need for authenticity and vulnerability in our personal lives has become a part of the mainstream conversation like never before. We now have a rich language available with which we can explore our own authenticity and can, with increasing context, compare and discern the authenticity of the world around us.

We’ve improved our ability to cultivate authenticity in our personal lives. Perhaps we can more easily carry over these skills to cultivate authenticity in our brands. Here are 5 ideas adapted for branding from Christopher D. Connors article on Medium, that will certainly add to your understanding of what it means to be authentic.

Be True to Yourself

Come to the conversation with integrity. Don’t over promise and always follow through on the promises you do make. Be trustworthy and knowledgeable about what you bring to the table and don’t overhype your offer.

Think Inward, Look Outward

Give thought to what it is you want to do and keep that at the forefront of your focus. Develop a keen self awareness and know your limits. Be aware of how your actions influence others and always strive to be a positive force in the world. 

The Way You Treat People

Treating others the way you wish to be treated can sound counterintuitive in the business world. However, there are more than enough resources to go around so make it your mission to help others in some meaningful way. Work within your communities. Treat every employee and every customer with kindness and respect. Be an example to your industry and add to the world more than you take away. 

Live In the Moment and Be a Great Listener

Pause for a minute and don’t think too far ahead. Look at the work you’re doing and appreciate the place you inhabit right now. You’ll continue to grow, but recognize your arrival in the present before you make that next step. 

Also, Listen to everyone. Your customers, your employees, your competitors. Often when we say we’re listening we’re quick to project our own thoughts onto the thoughts of others. Avoid that misstep and just listen. They’ll tell you who they are. They’ll tell you who you are.

Open-Mindedness and Fairness to Opportunities and People

Be open to new ideas. We get stiff and rigid in our workings and often fail to adapt to inevitable change, let alone seize blossoming opportunities. Criticism and challenging thoughts are seeds for growth and can springboard an organization into brilliant new spaces they never knew existed.

Ultimately, I believe that as people we’re all searching for the same thing. We crave spaces where we can share intimacy and be vulnerable. We gravitate towards people who allow us to speak our truths and will hold space for us without a biased judgment. We aspire to present our most authentic selves and be seen for the complete beings that we are. 

If that is what authenticity looks like then maybe we can build brands that better facilitate these experiences. If we can recognize the humanity in others and in ourselves, and consider more the “why we do” rather than the “what we do”,  then maybe we can finally understand this buzzword we’ve been throwing around and show the world a little authenticity.