Telling Stories? Remember the importance of authenticity.
Updated: Mar 28
The digital landscape has become more crowded and fragmented than ever. For most, digital media is the primary means to remain connected to key audiences, a tool to expand brand identity and the window to continued relevance and credibility. To succeed in this environment, one needs a well-balanced effort with credible messaging, channel control (you run your platforms, not the other way around) and good cosmetics (content that is visually appealing as a means of grabbing attention and reinforcing your themes).
Our training curriculum for our clients often includes a graphic to drive home the sheer volume of content thrown at audiences:
As Don Henley says in his song, New York Minute, “Everything can change….and things can get pretty strange.”
If you have messages and products you want to highlight in the digital space, it becomes extremely important to stand out from the noise noted in that graphic. Content can easily get lost in the sea of marketing messages unless it is worthy of attention and has that “special sauce.”
So, how do you get your products to be worthy of attention and, more importantly, worthy of trust? What is that je ne sais quoi?
The answer is simple: authenticity.
Authenticity is a lost art in the Instagram generation. As HBO airs documentaries covering the fundamental “fakeness” of the Instagram influencers and generation out there, the purity of authenticity has become something of an endangered species in today’s society…in America and globally.
We recently had a refreshing brush with authenticity on our latest episode of “3 Cs in a Pod”...due out next week. We interviewed Sean Gallagher, a Naval Academy graduate an author, who recently started the Montana 3000 website and podcast.
Sean’s podcast is simply a collection of his short stories. He narrates each episode and hangs the stories and photos from his experience in Montana on his website—inviting readers and listeners into his personal world of suspension of belief. The stories are generally 25 minutes long and have no contrived or protracted purpose or context.
“The stories are not connected to each other at all,” Sean said in our podcast interview. “In fact, sometimes an individual story will lack any real connection of events and timelines...I’m just writing what comes to mind. And it works.
Authenticity in storytelling is how genuine and honest messaging sticks with audiences and fans. Music fans often love how flawed their musician idols are. Sports fans forgive their idols as long as they are authentic as people.
The most influential marketing campaigns in history have relied on a very rudimentary principle: Be genuine, establish trust, then build loyalty with customers.
This formula is fairly simple, but how does one create such a lasting bond built on authenticity?
Remember these three tenets:
1 – You are who you are. Figure that out and run with it.
All leading brands start with a clear vision and a core idea of why they exist. From there, they create a brand narrative that captures the essence of who they are and what their mission is. Once the substance is clear, brands must find their true voice and messaging format.
For Sean Gallagher, he embraced the fundamental truth of who he was and what his stories were. Although influenced by writers like Joyce and Vonnegut, he decided to just write in the way that he thought was best. And then he embraced the fact that technology would force him to make these stories available in an audio format. Instead of fighting it, Sean embraced it and poured his personality into the readings on the podcast.
And a funny thing happened, the authenticity of Sean’s messages and writing came through much more effectively because you could hear the passion of his voice in the readings.
2 - Stay true to yourself.
Once you have established your identity, ensure that everything your brand projects is aligned with that authentic voice. This means that all the activities of your company and all the partners/stakeholders you engage with should meet eye to eye with your values.
Consumers want to see consistency in your messaging, and if you are sending conflicting messages, they will quickly become disengaged.
3 – Your audience can be a force-multiplier. Your authenticity will power them.
Coming up with a story is useless if it doesn't connect with your audience. The point of telling your story your way…in your voice…with dedication to your brand….is having it resonate with an audience. And subsequently, that audience builds loyalty to your cause and champions it to the end.
It is critically important to make customers take part in your story. Once they are engaged, they become brand ambassadors unintentionally…and they will share your message and increase your reach.
In closing, there are no hard and fast rules about how to be authentic because, at its core, it is about your efforts to be organic rather than fake. So, discover your core message, stick to it, and find the audience who appreciates that message.
Sean Gallagher has done that, and his conversation with us on the podcast was refreshing…particularly against a backdrop of increasing fakeness in the digital space. Sean’s stories are odd, kooky and also wildly smart and refreshing. And Sean’s flexibility and agility in pushing his art via the podcast medium shows his willingness to reach the audience in the ways that make his stories more effective.
Instead of reading the content, audiences can now absorb it through Sean’s voice…his accompanying photos from his website and his refreshing embracing of the truth of him. He is flawed. He is struggling through Covid. But he has messages he wants to get across to help audiences pass the time during the difficulties of the pandemic. And he does it...with amazing authenticity.
Visit www.montana3000.com to read Sean Gallagher’s short stories.