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!
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#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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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….
- 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.
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.?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
#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.
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…