Monday, April 26, 2010

What Does It Mean to Be Authentic?

What does it mean to be authentic when you communicate within an organisation? My clients have been struggling with this lately because of the recession's push to restructure.

An Example: Banking on Change

One executive at a large bank told me that the current climate has created fear and distrust in messages disseminated through her organisation.

High-level managers have told her that even the announcements about new (and real) benefits don't "feel" genuine to employees. This lack of belief has made project uptake, new initiatives -- and even morale -- a big challenge.

What's In a Word?

There was an interesting comment made on this subject by Richard Exon on the Channel 4 discussion about communication skills of Britain's three contenders for Prime Minister. He defined "authenticity" as the ability to be believed.

This means that being authentic -- once understood as telling the truth -- has become to mean seeming to be honest. This is a huge shift to jargon for a word that used to represent unmitigated truth.

And with communication, it's all that matters in the short-term. In the long-term, of course, you need to live up to your words.

Credibility vs. Truth: Bringing it Back to Business

My client and I worked on her challenges by taking this as a motto:
Successful business communication is about credibility.

Brand, for example, is a set of promises and beliefs. If experience proves to consumers that the promises feel fulfilled and beliefs are upheld, the brand is strong. If not, the brand is weak and probably not doing a company much good.

Internal brand is where every successful organisation must start. Without it, the external brand will show gaps and peel away in important places.

To help strengthen my client's internal communication, we went back to the core values and beliefs around which the brand was formed. Then we wrote communications from there.

It worked like a charm.

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