Is authenticity really that important?
When it comes to personal branding and YOUR personal brand – I think it’s critical.
That’s the reason why you’ll often see me tweet things like:
“Business Owners: nothing stands out more powerfully than an authentic brand. Is the real ‘you’ showing up in your brand?”
“Building a strong brand? Authenticity and integrity are vital. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It’ll show.”
Authenticity: ‘Keeping it real’ or ‘Acting as if’?
I did a search to see what other people thought about the meaning of ‘authenticity’ and found some interesting opinions.
Brian Clarke – from Copyblogger presented two different scenarios in his article: Do People Really Want Transparency and Authenticity?
The first story was of a loud-mouthed young marketing consultant who was attending a party. She’d had a little too much to drink, was using foul language and insulting others, while also trying to convince people to hire her.
But hey, “she was keeping it real.”
The second story was about a businessman that was loved by everyone. He took the time to listen when others spoke and regularly shared funny jokes, which always made everyone laugh.
Little did these people know that he didn’t have a sense of humour. In fact, he would search for jokes and just repeat them; with no idea why people found them so funny.
And, if the truth be known, he didn’t really care about what people were talking about either.
What he did realise, was the importance of ‘acting as if’ he was interested so that people would like him. It was important for business.
Do either of these scenarios portray the real meaning of authenticity?
Authenticity: Not ‘Who you are’ but ‘Doing what you promise’?
If we look at Seth Godin’s thoughts on Authenticity, he paints a similar picture of the businessman in Brian’s article. Seth believes that authenticity is not being ‘who you are’ but rather – doing what you promise.
This is because we can be quite vague about ‘being’ who we are due to our struggle in being able to see and understand our ‘internal vision’ clearly. So ‘doing’ is an act – a behaviour that others can see. Hence the ‘doing what you promise’.
Authenticity: Being ‘Who you Are’?
Let me present another scenario to you about my understanding of the meaning of authenticity as it relates to you and your personal brand.
Joy Tanksley sums it up perfectly in her article ‘Finding Your Ideal Writing Voice’ as she quotes Dolly Parton:
“Figure out who you are; then do it on purpose. Strive for authenticity instead of popularity. Don’t try to sound like anyone or anything except who you already are.”
Authenticity: ‘Acting as if’ can be exhausting
When working with clients (previously in my role as Career Coach and now as a Business Coach) I see the impact ‘acting as if’ has on my clients. Trying to sound like anyone or anything other than themselves is exhausting. AND, trying to be someone you’re not, especially if it’s the opposite of who you really are (like Brian Clark’s businessman) can often stand out like a sore thumb once people get to know you a little better.
Authenticity isn’t about ‘keeping it real’, especially when the behaviour you are exhibiting is inappropriate. Just because you can get drunk, abusive and offensive, doesn’t mean you should. That’s not being authentic – that’s just being rude and obnoxious.
If you believe being authentic means that you can say what you like, act how you like, whenever you like without any consideration for basic manners – then think again.
Everything you say and do; the photos you share online; the groups you join; the people you associate with, all impact your personal brand. Wouldn’t want a prospective client to read that comment? Don’t post it! It’s as simple as that.
I’ve known colleagues to miss out on lucrative opportunities because of inappropriate behaviour.
Authenticity: Identify your strengths, gifts and talents
According to my Thesaurus, authenticity means: being genuine, not false or copied; trustworthy.
Authenticity is about being true to yourself and who you are.
It’s about identifying your strengths, your gifts and your talents. It’s about working with clients YOU want to work with, doing work that you love and making an impact in the lives of those people you want to serve/support.
Authenticity: Don’t try to be someone you’re not
In my work as a Career Coach, I found that one of the most common reasons people disliked their jobs was because their work did not allow them to use their preferred strengths and skills. The environment they worked in and the tasks they performed did not align with their core values.
Trying to be someone they were not was wearing them down and unfortunately not only impacted negatively on their self-esteem, but was also showing up in their performance levels and in their relationships with their colleagues.
- Like the woman who had a bubbly personality, however kept it subdued because she believed it may annoy people around her, who were typically very sombre.
- Or the man who had an extremely positive outlook on life, however he conformed to the rest of his team who were constantly criticising other people and looking for reasons to complain. He didn’t want to upset the apple cart, nor did he want to be the next person who became the brunt of their callous jokes.
- Or the young girl who had an amazing gift of transforming situations of conflict into calm, bringing people together so that they worked toward the common goal. However, she kept this to herself because it wasn’t something that was valued highly by her supervisors and the corporate culture in general.
Just like these people, are you hiding your strengths, gifts, talents, passions and quirky characteristics.
Because when harnessed correctly they can become an integral part of your personal brand – the elements that are uniquely ‘you’ and that will differentiate you in a powerful and positive way from other people.
Personal Branding & Authenticity: The Real You
For me personally when it comes to my personal brand, authenticity is very important.
Getting clarity around my desires, passions, strengths and gifts has enabled me to be authentic in everything that I do in my business, from how I show up to an event, the way I interact with people, right through to what I write in my marketing materials.
I can sum up my personal brand and what I stand for in one word: Inspire. This is why I constantly share inspirational and motivational quotes and articles with my community.
Was I always so clear about who I was? Heck no. It’s been quite a journey – but a journey that has been worth each and every step.
Personal Branding & Authenticity: Permission to be you
Because I now know exactly what my brand essence (the heart and soul of my brand) and my brand promise is I can continue to bring this message to the world confidently and authentically.
It’s me. It’s what I stand for.
I don’t need to ‘act’ as if I’m being authentic. I KNOW it’s authentic. It doesn’t feel fake and I’m not draining my energy trying to be someone I’m not.
It’s also what I desire for my clients.
- Once the people who hated their jobs (because their career values did not align with their company’s values) were clear about their values, strengths and talents, they were able to find a job they loved.
- The business owners and entrepreneurs who struggled to grow their business finally realised that everything they were doing in their business just wasn’t them.The clients they were trying to attract, the marketing messages they were sending out – just didn’t feel right. Once they discovered and gave themselves permission to be themselves (and stopped listening to people telling them what they couldn’t/shouldn’t do) – it felt like a huge weight had been lifted.It felt real. They were being honest with themselves. They embraced what was authentic and real for them.
Staying on-brand and being authentic
When it comes to my business, does that mean I don’t have my down days? Of course I do. BUT, I won’t let loose and openly criticise or complain openly about someone. That’s just not me. Nor would I do something that would jeopardise my brand and reputation.
I know that everything I do and say, the people I associate with etc, impact my brand, so I’m very mindful that I am on-brand all the time.
To me though – that’s just common sense. That’s not about being authentic and real.
Being authentic and real is about having a strong awareness and clarity about one’s self so that you can incorporate that into every element of your life. Your relationships; your work.
Seth Godin ends his article by saying: You could spend your time wondering if what you say you are is really you. Or you could just act like that all the time. That’s good enough, thanks. Save the angst for later.”
Thankfully, I don’t have to wonder about whether who I say I am is really me. I KNOW I am who I say I am. I know what is authentic and real for me. And I am able to confidently bring my message to the world in everything I do and say, to the people I meet and interact with.
What about you?
Till next time, stay inspired!