A topic I get asked about a lot is authenticity. What does it mean? How much of yourself do you need to share? Everyone seems to be told to be ‘more authentic’. So when I saw Debbie Clarke was giving a talk on whether ‘authenticity is a wanky red herring’ at MarketEd.Live, I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to say.
Debbie said: “I asked people what does it mean to be authentic. And I got things like ‘trust’ and ‘reliability’ and ‘genuineness’.
“If someone meets you in real life, having known you, they shouldn’t have any surprises. I like that. I’m the same person that you’ll see on social media and that you might meet now. You get to decide how much of yourself you put out there.”
But do we care? Debbie asked. Do customers care about authenticity? Does it make a difference to a company’s success?
Thinking about Donald Trump, Debbie said: “He’s not really authentic is he? But he wears a badge of authenticity.”
Which led her on to thinking about ‘wedge issues’ where people stand for a point of view on a contentious issue because they think that will make them popular with their target market. They don’t necessarily care about the issue themselves, but they know it chimes with the people they want to buy from them (or vote for them).
You can sound authentic without being authentic.
So is authenticity as pure and desirable as we think it is?
Possibly not, but Debbie has an alternative focus for us: values. What are your values? What are the things you live by, that you genuinely care about? And instead of a mission statement, where you say what you stand for, how about a different approach?
Debbie said: “If you’re going to have a mission statement, write something that makes sense, that you can get behind. Don’t just fill it with fluff that sounds good.
“I was listening to [David Hieatt] speak and he was talking about these things, mission statements, and how they can be a bit wanky, and he said they have a mission question.
“It’s a mission! Let’s make it a thing that we do, let’s make it an action. For Hiut, their mission is ‘how do we reduce the impact of making jeans on the environment every single day?’ Great! So every day we come to work and we go, how can we make this process better?”
What is your mission question? At Micro Business Inspo, it is: how can we help business owners encourage themselves?
Act normal. How often have you told someone else to do that, or told yourself? We want to be accepted. We want to fit in.