“People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
We’ve all heard marketers advise business owners and leaders to be authentic in their communications and marketing efforts. Leading with integrity and authenticity is sure to increase lead generation, search ranking, and brand equity. And so we have strategy sessions. Branding workshops. Marketing meetings. We do everything we can to hone in and identify what makes us unique. And once we go through this process, our true authentic brand and marketing will shine. And the conversions will follow.
Authentic marketing is deeply intertwined with your brand. Any brand expert will tell you as a business owner or leader that you are not in total control of your brand. Your brand is what others are saying about your business when you’re not in the room.
It’s not about your colors, fonts, and logos
It’s not about how cool your website is
It’s not about many followers you have on social media
It’s about what people think and feel when they interact with your products, programs, or services. It’s more than what you look like.
Leading with Authenticity: People Over Product
One thing I’ve experienced over my years working with nonprofits and small businesses is that leaders often want to boast about things they plan to do. They want to shout from the rooftops that their intentions are authentic and wholesome. That they’re good people, trying to solve hard problems.
And that’s all fine. But it’s really not the thought that counts here. Often, to have truly authentic marketing and communications coming from your organization, you have to do the work first. There is a delicate balance between leading with authenticity and communicating that authenticity to stakeholders.
For example, if you know your business desperately needs a reorganization, don’t put your brand and colors first. Put your staff and operations first.
If you really care about authenticity then you’ll care that your marketing efforts are aligned with your operations and company culture. There’s nothing worse than flashy, fun, and engaging marketing materials and miserable staff. That is not authenticity, that is putting your product over your people.
And if you authentically want to do that, well then this article isn’t for you.
How to Know Your Marketing Is Authentic
This is tough, I’m not going to lie. A lot of times we are focused on the outcome we want, and we ask for it directly. Sometimes that’s useful, but other times it could come off crass. For example, a company selling non-essential items during COVID-19 may be stressed at their bottom line, but it’s imperative to understand where your stakeholders are in their buying journey.
Sometimes asking your customers to purchase something isn’t appropriate and we find ourselves with our feet in our mouths and our revenue down. Conversely, there can be space for you and your products or services. Understanding the balance is delicate and will undoubtedly take trial and error. But it’s worth it.
The key is to know when to ask folks to do something and when to support them so they can be lasting brand ambassadors, and because you genuinely care.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before putting out marketing material:
Is this an appropriate and valuable message for my stakeholders, customers, donors, or constituents?
If yes, why?
If no, what would be?
Am I focused on solving my problems or my stakeholder’s problems?
Is the messaging aligned with my operations?
It’s not only okay to get it wrong, sometimes it’s important. It’s important for us to have intimate check-ins with ourselves as leaders to know if our compass is pointing in the right direction. Operating under crisis puts additional stress on authentic marketing, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
We’re all working, buying, and selling in a world that prioritizes authenticity over polished, traditional marketing. We want to see the small business brands we love succeed, and part of that is in owning that we’re human and learning along the way. Leaders learn as much as they teach, and when we can assess and reassess our marketing goals to align with our company goals, we’re on the right path.
Article originally published to Medium
Written by Mindy Morgan Avitia