Authenticity (especially in business) has become a bit of a buzzword nowadays.
“Authentic Italian Gelato”
“100% authentic products”
“This girl is so authentic”
But… what does it actually mean to be authentic? And why is it so important to tune in with your core identity before building your brand identity? That’s the topic of conversation on the Create Connect Convert podcast, episode #017, where I’m joined by Lindsay Hotmire.
There’s this great quote by Josh Krichefski, UK chief executive at advertising giant MediaCom, where he says that “companies must understand that creating a truly authentic brand starts with getting the business basics right, and then giving consumers reasons to believe.“
And those business basics begin with that deep understanding of your core identity. Who are you? Apart from:
… your market;
… your competitors;
… your revenue goals;
… all those things that encompass the “traditional brand identity”;
… what is it that makes you tick?
What is it that when everything else is burned away is still going to be standing? That’s your core identity, what you believe, what you know, and then what you do as a result of that believing and knowing.
When you use your core identity, that’s what steers the ship of your brand. That’s when we aren’t susceptible to changing trends, to the imposter syndrome, that is so prevalent amongst all of us, and that’s when you truly emerge in an authentic way.
Here’s the thing – understanding your own self is bloody hard, that’s why so few of us do it. We’re taught different frameworks and are told to follow different steps, but this is all very linear. But that’s not the reality of identifying who we are to our core.
In reality, it’s messy. It’s hard work. It’s centered on growth and risk and a willingness to be really honest with ourselves and recognizing that.
For example – what are your personal values? You can probably answer that pretty easily. But if I ask you “Why are these your values”, you will find it much harder to answer. And the reason is that we live them subconsciously. They’re there – they’re always a part of a fabric of our being, but we don’t really know why.
Unless you’re creating space to ask yourself these deeper questions and you’re holding yourself accountable to answer them… then you’ll never be able to truly understand your core identity.
Because authenticity has become such a buzzword, I don’t think we ourselves fully understand what it actually means. I mean, if researchers and philosophers have been talking about it for millennia looking for answers, then how can we pretend to fully comprehend its meaning?
In 2006, a group of researchers named Kernis and Goldman developed an “authenticity inventory“, and it was a list of 45 questions that help you analyse four different areas of your life:
While maybe answering all 45 questions isn’t completely necessary to be authentic, I think it’s important to remember this:
Authenticity isn’t really about showing up as real or doing what you think you need to do to meet your market, Authenticity is about a deep, grounded knowing of who you are and then using that knowledge to guide every step you take.
The true mark of authenticity, whether in business or real life, is being willing to constantly evaluate who you are and aligning that with everything else you do.
The UNbrand Method is Lindsay’s signature framework that she uses with clients to help them dig deeper into their core identity and craft their own authentic message, based on three main questions:
This is probably one of the hardest questions – understanding what is at the core of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
The reason why this question is so hard is that it requires you to slow down and be really honest with yourself. You have to think about how do I actually live out my why versus how do I conceptualise it.
That’s a big difference. The practice of honesty is incredibly important when it comes to your core authentic self.
While this is where you get more into the traditional brand strategy side, understanding your audience and immersing into your market is incredibly important to craft your authentic message.
You need to practice to look outward and looking at your audience to see them as they really are, and not as you perceive them. Setting aside your biases and assumptions about who your audience is, is what will help you create a truly deep understanding of your audience.
Looking in and stepping back is what will help you identify what kind of impact you can make for your audience. You need to remember that your business is a constant work in progress, you’re always moving, morphing, transforming, adapting, trying new things, improving, innovating.
By listening to your audience and immersing yourself, and remember you who are at the very core of your identity, you will be able to deliver value and make a true impact on your audience.
It really starts with leaning into knowing your audience inside out. Those are the people who matter, not your competitors, not what the brand gurus are saying, just your audience. If you listening to them and showing up in a way that is meeting their needs, they’re going to trust and value you.
And sometimes, this may feel like you’re swimming against the tide – because you’re not doing what “everyone else is doing” but rather what your audience wants. But that’s where the gold is! That’s where you build real brand loyalty and trust, and where you let your authentic self truly shine!
Lindsay is a Master Message Coach and Copy Expert, who loves to work with coaches and leaders who know there’s nothing formulaic about authenticity. To date, Lindsay has helped 200+ clients (and counting) ditch one-size-fits-all frameworks and formulas – so they can simply and genuinely align their message with their beliefs, their values, and (ever-so-importantly) their audience.
Once upon a time (before Google changed the world), Lindsay was a high school English teacher. And while she still gets a bit nerdy over sentence diagrams, she adamantly refuses to take sides on the Oxford comma. These days, she unapologetically geeks out over introducing a little bit of woo to a whole lot of science, and she’s used her intuition, creativity, and slightly dusty math skills to help her clients create $10,000 to $1 M campaigns — all without losing sight of their true, authentic selves.