The irony of authenticity

It’s the most common marketing advice offered to brands and businesses: be authentic!

But what does that mean in a world saturated by brands spending millions of pounds heeding this advice?

It’s actually poor advice. By definition it means that the alternative to authenticity is inauthenticity and nobody wants to be perceived as that anyway. So what on earth does it mean when PR agencies and marketers bang on incessantly about authenticity?

There’s a great article in PR Week this week written by Nicola Green, director of communications and reputation at Telefónica UK, in which she states:

“Creativity is all around us. But the creative idea without the foundation of authenticity is a bubble in the wind. Authenticity has to permeate everything we do.”

There’s a sort of ‘forced fun’ element to all this ‘authenticity’ vibe. If you have to ‘create’ or ‘develop’ an authentic brand is it really authentic?

Real people are at the heart of authenticity for me.

Often, meeting people you follow on Twitter is a bit like meeting Morrisssey*. You end up disappointed the reality doesn’t meet the myth. Many people adopt their own social media persona which is usually a tweak of their real life persona.

People who say their Twitter profile is the real ‘them’ are bending the truth. There’s usually a degree of self-editing going on in that they are actively projecting an image of themselves they want the world to see.

It’s the same in business. On Twitter you never see business folk experiencing the downs or the rages or the tears. It’s all platitudes, positivity and back-slapping. There’s nothing wrong with all this positivity and it clearly has commercial advantages but it’s hard to argue that it’s authentic.

The reality of life (and business) for most people is that you do occasionally have challenging days, doubts, insecurities and pain. As long as these times are outweighed by good times you’ll do fine.

So, next time you hear someone spouting off about the need to be ‘authentic’ – check out their own individual social media profile and see if they practice what they preach.

Saying authentic things doesn’t mean being authentic.

Now, that’s quite enough of authenticity for this year.

*I know this because I met him once in the health food shop next to the vegetarian cafe on Oxford Road in Altrincham. He was kind enough to sign my Strangeways here we come CD but it was an underwhelming experience.


About Peter Davies

I'm a Manchester PR agency man. I work at RMS, the UK-based independent PR and marketing agency, I'm also a daddy and a football referee. Call me on 07779 033 016.
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