How To Tell An Authentic Story, And What That Even Means

May and June are two of the biggest months for brands and advertising. The One Show, American Advertising Awards and Cannes Lions are all awarded, while Clio starts accepting entries. It’s a busy few months on the award circuit on top of launching all your summer traffic.

With all the moving pieces and big names flying around (literally if you’re making an appearance at all the shows) it’s easy to lose sight of the main themes being discussed and showcased in the haze of networking and cocktail hours.

Anywhere you turn there are articles, podcasts, LinkedIn discussions and more about how to tell authentic stories to connect with consumers. The major award shows were no different. The themes in the surrounding conferences, as well as the winning work, highlighted some of the best ways brands and agencies are taking steps to interact even further with their client base.

But what does it mean to tell an authentic story? Authentic is defined as “of undisputed origin; genuine.” Which isn’t super helpful. Chase Jarvis summed it up perfectly in his 2017 article for Virgin, “Authenticity means that you walk the talk. You ARE you. It means that you’re telling this story because you BELIEVE IT — or better yet, because you’ve LIVED IT.” You can’t simply insert yourself into a popular topic if that conversation does not have anything to do with your brand. If you plan to be part of the conversation, it has to make sense.

As evidenced by the Virgin article posted in 2017, this concept isn’t new per se. But it’s also clear we are in the early stages of an emerging trend. With the growing data around consumer opinions, advertising and the rising saturation of social media, it is increasingly an important part of strategy. How does a brand, company, even your personal brand, tap into authenticity without forcing it?

The winning work from these shows gives a glimpse into how to successfully build out your brand’s authenticity. Below are the three top traits you can take away:

  1. Pick the right conversation

1. Pick the Right Conversation

The most important part, perhaps, of finding your authenticity is finding the appropriate conversation to insert yourself into. It has to make sense for your brand’s voice, values, image and more. You cannot simply be part of a conversation because it’s trendy. If you do intend to step into an arena that your brand is not readily associated with it has to be done tactfully. If you intend to make a bold statement, the brand needs to be prepared for both blowback and to back up any sentiments with actions. You cannot fake it. That hurts brands more than not being involved. Consumers do not have patience for disingenuous statements.

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2. Be Clear About Your Position

When you step up to make your statement, be clear what you are saying. Why are you taking this stand at this time? Why is your brand involved? Why should it matter to your audience? What are you trying to say? These shouldn’t be limited to one campaign, one time. These are questions that should be asked anytime external facing communications are released. This is how you build an authentic voice. It doesn’t happen overnight.

3. Make It A Conversation; Not A Lecture

Lastly, but certainly not least, make sure any statement, stand, etc. your brand takes results in a conversation. Talking at people and not incorporating feedback, good or bad, will only help to build a reputation that your brand is in it for themselves with no desire to actually do anything. The opposite of authentic. To truly be authentic and build a connection, it must be a two way conversation. If your consumers believe you are listening to them and taking to heart what they say, you are building a trust that will carry over into buying habits and their decisions to share opinions with peers.

The top winners from Cannes, The One Show and the American Advertising Awards all feature campaigns that centered around authenticity. They took a position that made sense for their brand, was important to their values and then highlighted that with the right talent, media and message. They engaged in conversations with their consumer base and made adjustments as needed. Engaging your audience, and creating a conversation is the tried and true way to build trust and ensure authenticity. How do you build your authentic story? Let us know on Twitter.