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7 Tips To Nailing Your Authentic Brand

Last year I asked a really important question: Are You Being Authentic of Fauxthentic In Your Business? Having explained the huge and massively important difference between being authentic and fauxthentic in business I thought I’d share my seven top tips to nailing your genuinely authentic brand. I’m also sharing my super cute, super helpful Authentic Brand Checklist, so make sure you download that!

#1 Be True To You

This is THE BIG ONE for creating an authentic brand. It’s also a simple concept, but so many people get it wrong. In business we must share our vision, our passions, our mission, the things drive us, the reasons we set up in business to begin with, what we’re trying to achieve and why it’s so important to us.

You will run into trouble with this on the authenticity front for several reasons:

  1. You’re in it for the money – your ‘passion’ is making a profit and you genuinely don’t care about anything else. It’s REALLY hard to fake passion, vision, and a mission, so don’t even try.
  2. You believe there is a certain ‘type’ of person that will appeal to your clients and you take on the persona you believe they want. This won’t work. Firstly, you’re assuming something that isn’t true – your clients would far rather you were authentic than appeared to be some suited and booted parody of what you believe a business woman should look like. Secondly, it’s FAKE. Sooner or later people will see through it, and no matter how good your intentions were, trying to give people what they wanted, all they will see is the lie.
  3. You suffer from IMPOSTOR SYNDROME and LITTLE OLD ME SYNDROME. In a nutshell, the former causes you to believe you are a fake, an impostor, someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing or saying and shouldn’t be trusted with anything. The latter is similar but basically boils down to ‘nobody wants to hear from little old me’, and ‘What? That can’t be right. Nobody would pay little old me to do anything’. These are both mindset issues that are very common and rooted in a lack of self-confidence. Which leads me to….
  4. Your lack of confidence undermines your belief in yourself, which causes you to either pretend to be someone you’re not, or seem nervous and twitchy. You may be entirely genuine in what you’re saying or selling but that twitching is going to send up red flags. It’s going to make you seem ingenuine even when you’re not.

The Fix

If you want to be perceived as authentic you have to actually BE authentic. To create an authentic brand put your nerves aside, think beyond your pay check, ignore your ideas about what people want you to be and be yourself. Some people will love you, some people won’t. Don’t panic that you’re not universally loved, that’s a GOOD THING. It means you have a true and solid relationship with the tribe you’re building. If you’re not sure where to start, try brainstorming the following:

  • What are your core values? What’s in your heart?
  • What are you truly passionate about?
  • What goals do you have personally and professionally?
  • What motivates you?
  • What frightens you and hold you back?
  • How do you approach business and every aspect of what you do?
  • How can you empathise with your clients?
  • What does your gut your intuition tell you about your business, clients, marketing etc.?

A Caveat…

There are no right or wrong answers here, this is about YOU and being TRUE TO YOU. You can’t be true to yourself in your business until you understand yourself and how you and your business fit together.

One final thing to bear in mind – being true to yourself in business is only going to work if yourself is a generally good person. You don’t need to be a saint, but there’s no room for racism, sexism, homophobia, stupidity, insensitivity and rudeness in business. These may be aspects of you, we all have flaws, but they are aspects that people will respond badly to. Trying to cherry pick your good traits and leave your bad traits for the sake of your business image will lead to fauxthenticity. Because you are not being true to your whole self.

The key is to be self-aware and understand that there may be elements of you that could cause genuine and reasonable offense. Whether or not you want to address these and make a change is between you and whatever gods care for you, but for the sake of this discussion, it’s really easy: if there is a subject or area that you know is dicey, that you can’t genuinely comment on without causing offense, avoid it like a plague-riddled rat. That is not being ingenuine, it is reserving a small amount of privacy. As long as you don’t go against what you truly believe in order to save face or pretend to be something you’re not, your authenticity is intact.

The old adage applies: If you can’t say something nice, don’t speak at all.

#2 Be Consistent In Your Authentic Brand

This is another big one. Inconsistency is confusing to clients and potential new members of your tribe. If you’re skipping around from subject to subject, backtracking or contradicting things you’ve said and done in the past, or generally giving mixed messages it will quickly make people suspicious. It’s very easily done, and most often doesn’t actually reflect a problem with the business in question but simply a lack of forethought. If you’re acting differently online and offline, if your brand and message differ on your website and Facebook page, if you blog about corporate law one week and knitting boobs the next (real thing, not joking) you’re only going to confuse people. Confusion breeds mistrust. It creates the opposite of an authentic brand, a brand in the midst of an identity crisis. This is frightening to people – they never know who they’re dealing with.

The Fix

Ensure you have a solid brand identity that is utterly consistent throughout. You will need to tweak it slightly depending on the platform, but your mission statement, message, style, identity, and the topics you cover MUST stay consistent. This is the core behind my own blogging method, The Divine Blogging Design. It ensures you have a rock solid identity and never deviate from it. This projects an image of a business that is strong, confident, and trustworthy, but more than that it will make sure you genuinely have a business that is strong, confident, and trustworthy.

#3 You Must Not Tell Lies

Few things will undermine your authenticity quicker than lying. Whether it’s about yourself, your business, your experience, a product, or simply pretending to know the answer to something when you don’t, lying won’t get you anywhere. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

The Fix

If someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, say so. Tell then you’re not sure but you’ll look into it and get back to them. If you do know the answer and it’s not going to make you look good, don’t ignore it, avoid it, spin it, or sugar coat it. Own it.

#4 Smoke The Cigar

It’s one thing to talk the talk but you really have to walk the walk. Or, to put it another way, it’s no good being all mouth and no cigar. You have to follow through on your promises, back up what you say, and deliver what you’re selling.

You need to be more than a big mouth. That mouth needs a cigar (proof of what you’re saying) and you need to smoke that sucker (deliver what you’ve promised).

The Fix

This one’s really easy to solve: be utterly transparent, never make a claim you can’t prove, and go for substance over flash every time. To elaborate – you shouldn’t need to hide the inner workings of your company, or any element of your business. It should function in such a way that you are 100% comfortable with your clients seeing every element of your biz, your authentic brand. That doesn’t mean you get no privacy – you have a PERSONAL LIFE, too – but where business is concerned the only thing between you and your tribe is a thin pane of spotless glass. You should also take care you ensure you can back up everything you say.

This often gets confused with making sure you tell the truth, but you can tell the truth and still have no PROOF that what you say is true. If you get called out on something, for any reason, you need to be able to pull out that cigar, and let someone else chew on it until they’re satisfied. Which brings me to the final point – a good cigar has substance. It takes a good while to smoke. It also looks remarkably like something your dog might deposit on the lawn. It’s not pretty, but it has substance. It’s often tempting to go for the pretty option, a bright smile and a flash of those pearly whites, but what’s behind that smile? What’s between those teeth? Nothing. They look nice, but there’s nothing to them.

Transparency, proof, and substance.

#5 Make Yourself Available

Nothing is more off-putting than being interested in a product or service, having a question, and being unable to get an answer because there’s no way to get in touch. People like to be able to talk to you. An email address, an online form with space for a proper message, social media accounts where posts and tweets and messages can be sent directly to you. Yes it’s difficult to keep up with lots of requests. Yes you’re going to get spam and junk. BUT, your real clients and potential clients will know you’re real. That you’re genuine. That you’re AUTHENTIC. Why? Because you’re available.

The Fix

Ensure there are multiple ways for people to contact you. State your email and (ideally) your phone number on your website and social media profiles. Have a contact form available in as many places as possible. RESPOND to comments and messages on your social media, and do so in a PERSONAL way – don’t just fire off pat replies, actually read the comments and messages and reply to as many as possible personally.

This may mean putting a cap on how long you can spend on social media per day, or how many comments you will reply to for each post, but you will be consistently demonstrating that people aren’t talking to air. There’s a real person, really running your business, who really does exist and will interact with you personally. Finally, make sure there is always a PERSON responding to comments and messages. If you don’t have time to keep up with it all, hire an assistant or VA. Don’t use auto-responses for anything other than your email and then, only to say thank you for getting it touch, and letting people know how long it will take for you to reply.

#6 Feather Your Cap With Real Feathers

One expression you hear often in business is that you are ‘wearing too many hats’. This means you are trying to do too many things. More than is realistically possible. You may be trying to do more jobs than one person can reasonably handle. It may mean you’re trying to be all things to all people, and not niching down to a very specific purpose for a very specific audience. It’s important to understand which hat you’re wearing in business, and to make sure you’re only wearing ONE. It’s also important that the one hat you do wear is a FANCY ONE. Picture a pirate, whose status among pirates is determined by how big and elaborate his hat is. Anyone who’s seen Pirates of the Carribean will know what I’m getting at here.

So you need a big fancy hat, but that hat must be EARNED. Nothing puts a dent in an authentic brand image more than the captain wearing a STOLEN hat. You can’t just pilfer a big expensive pirate hat, call yourself a commodore, and hope nobody notices you don’t have a fleet of ships at your disposal. You must feather your cap with REAL feathers, earned feathers. Your authentic brand comes with a hat, but initially it’s a modest one that you feather.

The Fix

Use your achievements and reputation. Transform you hat from a drab felt cap into a fancy get up any pirate would covet. Don’t be afraid to shout about your achievements. Highlight your coverage in the press, and actively use your reviews and recommendations from existing clients. People like to know that you’re a bonafide expert. So where have you been published? Do you have any books out? Have you had any press coverage? Have you guest blogged for other sites? Are you on The Huffington Post, or other notable news sites? Ensure you have a ‘featured in’ banner on your site with the logos of all the places you have appeared. You can also have a dedicated press page. Include information and links to anything you’ve done, and downloadable press packs.

#7 Own Your Sh*t

Should you make a mistake, or something goes wrong, own it. Don’t sweep it under the rug or pretend it’s not a problem.

The Fix

Learn from your mistakes and improve your future services, products, or practices. In particular take note of instances when people react negatively to your brand or image. Use it as a learning experience for your clients. Share your mistakes with your tribe. Tell them exactly what you cocked up. Tell them how it happened, what you learnt, and how you will avoid it happening again. This not only demonstrates you’re authenticity in business but reinforces your credibility and gets ahead of the mistake. Once you own it, it can’t sneak up behind you and bite you on the arse. If you fall foul of anything outlined in these tips, LEARN FROM IT. Use it to ensure you have an even MORE authentic brand in the future.

Ready to GET AUTHENTIC? Download your FREE AUTHENTIC BRAND CHECKLIST NOW…

download your authentic brand checklist now...

8 Lessons About Being An Entrepreneur Writing A Book Taught Me

I’ve been writing and publishing books for years now, but last year marked a new mile stone for me: I published my first non-fiction book. The Uber Author Planner is very different to anything I’d done before, and I caught the bug. I wanted to write a business book, dedicated entirely to my specific niche, my zone of genius: writing. How I write, blog, and publish is my own particular brand of awesome. There’s nothing unique about being a writer, or a blogger, or having a book or two out. But nobody does it quite like I do, which means there isn’t a book out there that can teach you the things I know. So I decided to write one. I also though I’d share the lessons about being an entrepreneur I learnt in the effort…

Writing is my passion. You might call it my obsession.

My fictional books are my darlings, but it was time I put my mind to creating a different kind of baby: one that would teach you how to do what I do. Things I learnt through trial and error, success and failure. They’re methods born of creative imagination, a classical education, considerable teaching experience and a bipolar brain that is never, ever quiet.

Early this year I started planning my book. It was a good time to be doing it. I was in the middle of a re-brand, shifting the focus of The Bookshine Bandit so that I was centred on helping business women with their blogging and corporate stories. These two topics intermingle, but exist as separate entities. I needed one book for each, so the project was split in two.

The Tao of Corporate Storytelling is now well underway and will be unleashed on the world in the new year (if you’d like to be the first to read you can sign up to get Chapter One, free, ahead of the launch here!). The second book, The Divine Blogging Design is planned, and will be written once the first book has been released.

I was surprised by the number of lessons about being an entrepreneur that I’ve learnt so far. As my first full-length non-fiction title (academic papers not withstanding) I expected a fair few lessons on writing, but I got considerably more than I bargained for…

Lessons About Being An Entrepreneur

#1 Refuse To Settle

Early on in the process I sketched out eight chapters for The Tao of Corporate Storytelling. The narrative of the book centres on an old Chinese proverb about a dragon and a phoenix. Each chapter focuses on one element of the lesson drawn from that proverb. I knew I wanted illustrations. I had in mind beautiful, traditional water colour images that depicted the various stages in personal and professional development that the book guides you through.

I love art, but water colours are not my thing. This was well outside my skill set, so I set about looking for an illustrator. 

With a fixed budget for the illustrations I immediately ran into trouble. All the illustrators I wanted were too expensive. I needed eight illustrations and could find nobody I liked who worked for less than £150 per image.

This was beyond my budget, and more than I was willing to invest in an element of the project that was pure indulgence on my part – I didn’t require illustrations. I just wanted them.

I’m a fantasy author and there was talk of dragons and firebirds, what can I say, I’m a slave to my inner fantasist.

Eventually I found a wonderful artist who did pen and ink images of animals that I absolutely loved. She was very enthusiastic, and her prices were very reasonable.

Jackpot.

Or so I thought.

Except it didn’t work out.

Disappointed, I looked again, and finally got hold of an illustrator friend. We discussed it, he asked what I’d been paying the first illustrator, and agreed that was fine.

Sorted.

Except it wasn’t.

Back to the drawing board AGAIN. Thoroughly pissed off by this point, I spent a full day researching and reviewing portfolios and finally contacted a German artist through DeviantArt. Her prices were more than my budget could handle, but she was exactly what I wanted and not as high as they could have been.

I ordered two of the eight illustrations I wanted, and low and behold she delivered perfection. 

The Lesson

There was nothing terribly wrong with the first illustrations, but the artist wasn’t the right fit. Everything was wrong with the second, but by that point I almost felt compelled to accept them because of the time and effort I’d already wasted. Fortunately, like Goldilocks, I found the solution on the third try. The artist was a perfect fit, the art was how I wanted it, and the level of professionalism displayed couldn’t be faulted. Lesson learnt.

Never settle.

Even if it means trying some mediocre porridge until you find a bowl that’s just right.

Even if it means reassessing your priorities and deciding to get a smaller amount of a much higher quality.

Never. Ever. Settle.

I have two illustrations rather than the eight I originally wanted, but they’re gorgeous, and two quality images are infinitely better than eight of poor quality, or the wrong style.

Waking the Dragon, Illustration from The Tao of Corporate Storytelling by Hazel Butler, Copyright Hazel Butler 2016 - Copywriting, Business Narratives, Content Marketing, Soulful Selling lessons about being an entrepreneur

When the Phoenix Dances, Illustration from The Tao of Corporate Storytelling by Hazel Butler, Copyright Hazel Butler 2016 - Copywriting, Business Narratives, Content Marketing, Soulful Selling lessons about being an entrepreneur

#2 Always Speak Your Mind

My experience with the illustrators led to a bit of an epiphany. I had reservations about the first when I saw the concepts, worrying that her style of art wasn’t suited to what I wanted after all. I quashed my fears and forged ahead.

In hindsight, I should have listened to that reservation. The artist herself later said she’d harbored exactly the same concern but, like me, had forged ahead instead of speaking her mind.

There was no issue with the concepts from the second artist, the problem was his professionalism. I’d worked with him once before and he’d been impossible to get hold of, missed every deadline (though he set them himself). I never felt I could voice my concerns, because he’s a friend. I worried on hiring him that I’d have the same problems again, but this time, he was the one with an issue with me. He felt I wasn’t paying what his work was worth. I’d have paid him more had he asked, but he didn’t, instead choosing to do a poor job.

The Lesson

All the stress and disappointment with the first artist could easily have been avoided had either of us brought up our mutual fear: her style wasn’t suited to the job. She was an excellent artist, it just wasn’t the right fit. In the second instance, the problem would have never arisen had the new artist told me the problem and asked me to pay him more. Which leads me to lesson number three…

#3 Pay People Their Worth

The lack of communication with the second artist was a two way street this time, as the issue arose from the amount I was paying him. He had asked what I was paying the first illustrator and I had told him, expecting him to ask for considerably more. He hadn’t. I assumed he was giving me mates rates as a favour and, knowing how much he loves to draw, didn’t think it an issue. He, however, resented it from the start, and reached a point where he decided I wasn’t paying enough to justify the time spent, so he half-arsed it. The result was appalling. He knew it, I knew it, but it wasn’t until he gave the me first image and I was forced to raise my concerns about the quality that he finally told me what was wrong. By that point it was too late – neither of us wanted to work together. Knowing why he did it, I almost can’t fault him for it, because he was right – I wasn’t paying him anywhere near enough. Yet he had every opportunity to tell me the problem so we could solve it, and he didn’t…which of course leads back to Lesson #2.

The Lesson

Pay people their worth.

I’m not saying offer people a shed load more than they’re asking for. Assess the job you need doing and get a realistic idea of the amount it will cost for the level of skill you want. Expect to pay that price, possibly a little more. Then look for someone with the level of skill you want, in the price range you have predetermined is fair, and affordable.

Don’t complain when you have to pay what someone is worth, because that’s what you want. You’re in control, you decide the quality and quantity of what you ask for.

If you want quality, you have to pay for it.

#4 Value Yourself As You Would Others

The money train is a two way street. Just as I learnt that I needed to pay people their true worth, so too did I suddenly comprehend that I was guilty of doing exactly what my friend had done. I knew the value of my work, yet my rates at the time did not reflect that value at all. My rates were a third of what they should have been based on my skill level and experience. And I resented certain clients for paying me below the odds. I felt they were being unfair, yet what else were they going to do? I’d never asked for more. I’d never told them they were getting a special price. They were not experts in my field and had nothing to compare it to.

The Lesson

Value yourself, your skills, and your time, for what they are truly worth. Expect to be paid that amount. Ask for that amount. People will either pay it, or they won’t. When I finally found my artist, I understood her value. I didn’t run at her prices because I knew she was worth it. Paying her was a no-brainer, she was solving a huge problem for me and doing it in style. When I put my prices up, I flinched. I didn’t put them up to where they should be, but met them half way. Still, they felt terrifyingly high.

“Nobody’s going to pay me that!” I thought. “I’m not worth that much.” All evidence points to the contrary – my years of experience, my glowing testimonials, my list of happy clients etc. yet still, even now, there is a voice in the back of my head telling me, “You’re not worth that much.” That’s a really difficult voice to silence, or even ignore. Believe me, I know, I’m really trying to kill it.

But the thing is, when my prices went up, nobody batted an eyelid. I didn’t have a single complaint, not one word was said on the subjects. I simply notified existing client what the new price would be, and when it would take effect, and introduced new clients to my services at my new prices.

Ridiculously easy.

Totally painless in fact.

Why the fuck* didn’t I do it years ago?

Here’s the thing: the people who understand your value will pay what you ask them to pay. Ask for what you are worth. The people who tell you you’re too expensive, or try to wrangle you into giving them a lower price, do not understand your value. It doesn’t matter how low you go, they will always think you’re over priced. So do yourself, and them, a favour – send them on their way.

They’re not a good fit.

#5 Get Out Of Your Head

I got really stuck in my own head on this project. I’m ridiculously pleased with how the written content of the book turned out, it’s exactly as I envisioned it, but the rest… well…

I had a really clear idea of what I wanted for illustrations. I had a really specific, narrow view of how my book would look. Sometimes clarity of vision is a godsend. Other times, it’s a curse. On this particular project it was a double edged sword. My clear vision for the book allowed me to write it exactly as I wanted, and the end result is something I’m very proud to claim as my own. But the creative elements – the illustrations, the cover design, even the title… these things were problematic.

You see, I’m a fantasy author. I’ve been writing fiction a lot longer than I’ve been writing non-fiction. I only started blogging and professional non-fiction writing in my early twenties. I’ve been writing fiction for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen (or a crayola). The Tao of Corporate Storytelling is the first full non-fiction book I’ve ever written. The Uber Author Planner has written content, but it’s sparse, the majority of the book consisting of planners, templates, outlines, and writing aids.

The Tao of Corporate Storytelling is a full length non-fiction piece, and the only creative elements in it are the cover, illustrations, and title.

And if I’m honest it doesn’t need illustrations. The addition of traditional water colour illustrations was a pure indulgence on my part, especially as I was illustrating the story element of the book – the fantasy – and not the factual element. But to me, this made sense: it’s a book about storytelling, about the creation of narrative in a business context. The odd juxtaposition of the fantasyesque illustrations and the corporate content was fitting.

But I was stuck in my own head.

My head is a fantastical place full of dragons and firebirds and magic. It is not the typical mind of a business person. Most entrepreneurs are extremely creative, but not that many are fantasy authors.

Which means not that many will appreciate the high fantasy elements I was bringing to the book.

The original title for the project was Copywriting for Female Entrepreneurs: Soulful Selling Through Stories. The more I wrote, the more I came to hate that title. The book is about finding yourself, your stories, finding your magic and power. My personal strength and stories are drawn from fantasy, and I really riled against the sensible nature of that title.

It bored me.

And thus I assumed it would bore everyone else.

So I changed it, to When the Phoenix Dances: Soulful Selling Through Stories. I loved this title, and merrily went on writing, ordered my illustrations, and when the phoenix image finally arrived, happily created my cover.

Then I got The Fear.

Because something I should have realised much sooner had suddenly become blindingly obvious: it looked nothing like a business book.

I posted it on social media and asked for opinions, only to have my suspicion confirmed: everyone either thought it was fiction, or was simply confused by it.

Had it been a fiction book I could possibly have got away with confusing them – enigmatic covers are often appealing to fiction readers. But this isn’t a fiction book, and the impression the cover was giving was the exact opposite of what I wanted. In my quest to not be boring I’d come across as something I wasn’t, and I was presenting the book as something it wasn’t.

Hardly in keeping with the spirit of authenticity.

But I was so stuck in my own head, I just couldn’t see it. 

The Lesson

Even if you are 100% convinced you’ve nailed it. Even if you’re completely certain you’re on the right track, that what you’re doing is exactly what your ideal clients want, that it’s going to go down a storm and make you millions.

We are not omnipotent. We are not our ideal client. We are not the answer to life the universe and everything. We are but individuals, one, not many. The view of one is narrow, the view of many is broad. GET FEEDBACK.

#6 Be A Duck

Accept criticism and comment, even if you disagree, even if it makes you fuming mad, even if it makes you vomit. Accept it. Let it run right off you, the proverbial water sheeting down upon the back of the equally proverbial duck.

Feedback is water.

You are the duck,

Ducks don’t sweat water, they love it.

Be the duck.

You will resist what people are saying to you at first. Even if they’re being nice and very helpful, even if they’re agreeing with you or saying they love what you’re doing. They will say something, use some inflection, phrase, word, or emoticon, that convinces you they hate you. Or they think you’re shit. Or they think you’re stupid. Or maybe they’re stupid. 

All this is normal. 

All this is water.

Be the duck.

After you’ve been kicking around in the pond for a while you’ll start to see patterns forming, ripples. These are SHARED OPINIONS. If the shared opinion of your ideal clients is that your title is misleading, your cover is confusing, and you need to scrap both and start again, you’d damn well better listen.

The Lesson

They won’t care if you ignore them. 

Really, they won’t.

But they’re your ideal clients, you want them to love your stuff, and they’re telling you, very clearly, that there’s something about it they don’t love. Something not quite right. If you listen very carefully they will tell you exactly what it is and how to fix it. But if you’re so busy squawking about the fact you’re getting wet you won’t be able to hear them!

BE THE DUCK!

#7 It’s Okay To Change Your Mind

No matter how far you get into a project, no matter how much you’ve promoted it, no matter how much people have seen of it, it’s okay to change your mind. I made two huge changes to this project off the back of the wonderful feedback I received. One was to change the title to The Tao of Corporate Storytelling: A Guide to Copywriting and Business Narratives. The other was to completely change the cover. 

At this point nobody but my friends and people in a business group or two on Facebook had seen the cover idea I originally had, so that wasn’t a big deal.

The title on the other hand…was.

For weeks I’d been tweeting quotes from my book, sharing them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all with the title included, all with the hashtag #WhenThePhoenixDances. It wasn’t a minor tweak to the title, it was a total change. Aside from ‘the’ and ‘through’ every word had changed and the entire feel of the title had changed.

That was good.

That was needed.

It was also bloody terrifying!

The Lesson

But it’s okay. It’s okay to decide something isn’t working and change it so that it is.

It’s okay to decide a project just isn’t right for you at all, and give it up as a bad job. Shelve it. Put it on the back burner. You can always come back to it later, if you want, but it’s better to stop, not waste any more time, or worse still release something into the world that’s totally wrong for you. 

Change is good…

When The Phoenix Dances: Soulful Selling for Female Entrepreneurs by Hazel Butler lessons about being an entrepreneur

The original cover and title.

 

The Tao of Corporate Storytelling: A Guide to Copywriting and Business Narrative by Hazel Butler lessons about being an entrepreneur

The revised cover and title, based on feedback from my Tribe and potential ideal clients.

 

*You must forgive me the occasional F-Bomb. It’s my way. I have a terrible potty mouth. I keep a lid on it most of the time for work, as I know some people find it offensive, but just occasionally it’s necessary for emphasis. If you’re wondering, no, I don’t swear while writing other people’s copy – unless they specifically ask me to, in which case they are usually pleased by the extensive range of expletives in my arsenal.

Are You Being Authentic Or Fauxthentic In Your Business?

Authenticity has been a big buzz word in the biz world for a while now. But how can you ensure authenticity in business, what does authenticity even mean? And are you truly being authentic, or do you just think you are?

Are you, actually, being fauxthentic?  

What Does It Mean To Be Authentic In Business? 

Authenticity can be easily defined as being genuine, real, and not false or copied. At face value it would seem easy to apply this to business: don’t lie, don’t copy other people or their ideas, be true to yourself. But authenticity in business isn’t as easy as it sounds. Our lives are increasingly virtual. We exist more and more in the online world and less and less in reality. All this virtual existence makes us crave something real, especially in the virtual world. The digital age has made the world small. It’s also flooded the world with women, just like you, trying to be authentic in business. 

While we now happily spend a fortune online, in both time and money, business in the online world is very different to business in the real world. In the real world when we want something we walk into a shop, pick it up, pay, and leave. No muss, no fuss. We may ask a sales assistant where to find what we want, or which of the available products is best, but it’s a very simple process.

Reality is straightforward.

The virtual world is very different. Anything can exist in a virtual reality. It’s the world of make-believe, of fantasy, and people online regularly expect more than a straightforward buy, especially from a small business.

They expect an experience. An adventure. An Odyssey.

They also expect that experience to be as honest as possible, as authentic as possible. Online businesses have to keep up with consumer demand for authenticity in a way seldom seen in the real world. In the real world we don’t scrutinise every word a company says on an individual basis. The press may poke about occasionally. There may be rumours and stories flying about.

This not only means what YOU write about your business, but what everyone else writes about it too. And when you run a business online you use a lot of words. If content marketing is the core of your business, every single thing you release will be scrutinised.

In order to survive in online business you MUST give people what they want, and expect, from an online business in the virtual age: total authenticity.

Does Authenticity In Business REALLY Work?

 Being genuinely authentic in business genuinely works for several reasons:

  1. It infuses your brand image and identity with something vibrant that allows you to become truly influential.
  2. It demonstrates you are trustworthy, both as a business and as an individual.
  3. It encourages people to engage with you and your business, join your tribe, and become eager supporters of you and what you do.
  4. It boosts your business profile to something beyond ‘corporate’. This is very appealing to the modern mentality which is increasingly mistrustful of big business.
  5. It makes you and your business relateable, allowing people to more easily understand what you are offering and how it will be of benefit to them.
  6. It makes your services, products, and business more substantive and demonstrates they are high quality.

Fauxthenticity

Fauxthenticity comes into play when you underestimate your audience. When you think you can get away with shit because they won’t know any better. Or when you think that to be authentic you must present a squeaky clean image. You shy away from your real, genuine self. It can also happen when you underestimate the meaning of authenticity

At face value it is a very simple concept. It boils down to being honest and nice in the way you practice business. But if this were all it was about, true authenticity would be easy. It’s a no-brainer: in order to be successful a business has to be nice and honest.

It’s a given.

But that is only the surface meaning of authenticity in business. Failing to dig deeper, to really infuse your whole business and brand with authenticity and a ‘true to you’ feel, is where you enter the murky waters of fauxthenticty. You can end up there by accident, or because you know you need to seem to be something you’re not. Either way, it’s bad, and you need to shut that shit down. 

There are a few things to bear in mind about your readers that easily lead to fauxthenticity when they are misunderstood or ignored:

  • Your readers know far more than you presume.
  • This isn’t a ‘you verses your readers’ thing. You aren’t trying to con them, trick them, or get them to fall in line. You’re not out to brainwash them, fool them, or convince them you’re the second coming. You are trying to build a TRIBE. You may be the leader of that tribe, but all members should be equal in your eyes. Equal to each other and to you. This is a difficult concept for many to grasp. Surely if you’re the leader, you’re ‘in charge’. You’re ‘the boss’. You may be the boss of your business, but you are not the boss of your tribe. Your tribe are the only reason you HAVE a business, without them you would have nothing. RESPECT THAT!
  • Your readers are socially very well-connected, and that connection empowers them to expect extremely high standards in an unprecedented way.
  • They’ve got spunk – like, serious attitude and backbones made of diamond encrusted steel.
  • Your niche is usually their niche, which means they know enough to spot a poser at a thousand paces.
  • Duels are commonplace in the virtual world. Your readers will not be afraid to slap you in the face with a pair of gloves, call you out, and shoot you down the second they get a whiff of rodenty musk. That musk may mean you’re a rat, or is may mean you’re trying too hard and it’s showing. Either way, by the time you’ve defended yourself it will be too late, your reputation will be ruined.
  • Which leads me to this big one – THEY ALL LOVE A SCANDAL! The virtual world is generally as gossip-hungry as a desperate housewife, and often just as vindictive. If someone feels wronged, they will not hesitate to air YOUR dirty laundry in public. And the second there is even a HINT of a scandal, you will be scrutinised.
  • If part of your brand identity is that you are ‘authentic’ and the scrutiny of your readers turns up anything, ANYTHING that is not 100% genuine, you’re lost. The domino effect in your business will be difficult to halt. One false step can break your business. Online marketing is incredibly powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility… 

So Are You Being Authentic of Fauxthentic In Your Business?

The key isn’t authenticity, it’s convincing authenticity. 

To be clear, I’m not saying you need to trick people into believing you’re authentic, when you’re not. I’m saying there are a lot of people doing their best to appear authentic. They do this to the point their whole brand is about ‘authenticity’. Yet in reality there is nothing truly authentic about them. They may be purposefully deceiving, or they may simply be missing the mark. Not because they are ingenuine, but because the world got small.

People are suspicious by nature.

They’ve also heard it all before.

We’re trained to read between the lines. Look for the lie in things. Assume that if something sounds too good to be true, it is. It’s easier than ever to set yourself up as an entrepreneur, but it’s also easier than ever to scam people. And there is a FEAR that the ‘authenticity’ people project online is nothing but a mask to hide the SCAM.

This is an understandable fear. There are real people out there, really scamming and using their fauxthenticity to do it.

But there are also people being fauxthentic without realising it. It’s not because they are ingenuine. They simply don’t understand what authenticity in business means and how to truly be authentic.

Now that you have a full and complete understanding of what authenticity in business really means, you’re golden! Off with you and be genuine, and don’t forget to tell me how you’re doing!

 

Are you struggling to nail that authentic brand you crave?

Have you come across fauxthentic people in business? What did you learn from them?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, comment bellow, or head on over to the Facebook discussion!

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