|For a long time, I believed authenticity was the cure-all for traditional, hyper-masculine business-building and marketing practices. Many of us spent years zipping ourselves into uncomfortable personas in an effort to be seen or heard, especially at the executive level, and trying on PR and marketing tactics that felt out of alignment with our values and leadership style.|
The growing emphasis on authenticity in business, marketing and leadership has felt, at least for me, like throwing the windows wide open. It’s invited more openness, transparency, inclusiveness, humanity and humor into the work we do, helping many of us connect more deeply with customers and partners than we ever did before.
But our emphasis on authentic business-building has introduced a number of questions, including How do I know what personal stories to share or not to share with my community in the name of authenticity?
I like some of Seth Godin’s thinking on this. He argues that authenticity in business is a myth and that we should be focused on empathy and service instead (read from pg. 75 here). While I see it less as either/or and instead as a both/and, I like the empathy and service framework for working through this question.
Empathy: Empathizing with our customers may seem like second nature, but as business owners we can get hooked on creating the products/services we most want to create and sharing the personal stories we most want to share in the name of authenticity. Empathy shifts the focus back to see the problem and solution from our customers’ perspective. So the first question to consider is: Am I sharing this for them or am I sharing this for me?
Service is the commitment to getting your customers from A to B. I find it’s the most helpful lens through which to consider product, service, marketing and content-related questions. Instead of: How do I know what personal stories to share or not to share with my community? Consider: What stories would be most of service to my community? Which ones offer a clear and important takeaway? Instead of: How do I show up authentically on social media? Consider: How do I show up in service on social media?
The way we market our businesses shifts when we look at what we’re doing through the lens of empathy and service vs. straight authenticity—I’d argue for the better.
As Seth writes in the book, “The goal isn’t to personalize the work; it’s to make it personal.”
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