Great public relations and marketing doesn’t come down to the slickest campaign or the catchiest slogan; as most pros know, it’s about complicated, intangible goals that take long-term cultivation and determined implementation. Two of those things? Substance and authenticity.
On Friday, PRNewser ran two interesting posts. The first, entitled “The 20 Most ‘Authentic’ Brands in the U.S. (and Why),” surveyed people on the brands they perceived as most “authentic.” The catch is, those conducting the survey didn’t define “authentic;” instead they left the definition wide open. The most consistent finding about authenticity, though, was that consumers – 87 percent of those polled – say it’s important that brands “act with integrity at all times.”
So while it can be a great and noble goal to strive for, say, innovation, only 72 percent of consumers said that innovation was necessary to being authentic.
Topping the list, somewhat surprisingly, was WalMart, followed by Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, and Target.
Brands considered “authentic” were not necessarily popular – Chase Bank and AT&T made the list, but GE did not. Instead, authenticity came from people knowing what they’re getting and brands being transparent about what goes into their products. The survey is a great reminder that people generally appreciate being spoken to like adults – being forthright and sincere, especially in a crisis situation, is far better PR than trying to bury one’s head in the sand or obfuscating facts and findings.
Later in the afternoon, PRNewser ran “B2B Clients to Firms: ‘Stop Marketing to Me!’” which shared findings from a survey from The Economist which showed that in B2B marketing, people want more substance and emotional appeal. PRNewser interviewed Ted Birkhahn of Peppercomm for his take, and he defined “substance” thusly:
Substance refers to content that adds tangible value to the audience and typically incorporates one or more of the following criteria:
1. It provides a new and credible angle or point-of-view on an issue that is topical or material to a client’s business.
2. It offers counsel and new ideas to tackle well known challenges the audience is facing.
3. It makes the executive and/or their company smarter about complex issues facing their business, industry, etc.
4. It entertains, when written in a storytelling manner that is painless to consume.
That consumers want substance is a way of saying they want more meaning – they want content that will help them do something or change something, not content that fills a social media feed for the sake of being filled. So here are some tips for being authentic and substantive:
Define your values. You can only stay true to your brand if you know what you values are in the first place. Define them and stick to them throughout all your campaigns.
Define and stick to your voice. Defining your voice goes beyond just deciding if you’re going to be snarky or sweet. It means defining your role in relation to your consumers, and then deciding how that role relates to them.
Listen to what your audience is saying. Listen to the conversations your audience is having around and aside from your brand. What do they want? What information are they not getting, or what did they react will to?
Be transparent. Especially this day in age, glossing things over or pretending they didn’t happen just doesn’t fly. In fact, it just makes it worse. Be straightforward and acknowledge incidents, snafus, or dissatisfactions. It will give your image much more long-term positivity when people know you’re willing to treat them like equals.
In this supersaturated content world, it’s hard to cut through the noise. But the best way to do that is to focus your brand voice around authenticity, substance, and meaning, and what your customers need. How do you keep your brand authentic and substantive?