The Importance of Being Earnest

Posted on January 23, 2008
Filed Under Management, Marketing, Quantum Leaders, Social Media | Leave a Comment

The subject of authenticity appears to be a real hot topic these days – both in the political arena and in the realm of business.

We appear to long for authenticity in all our major relationships and public/private interactions, and there is a growing understanding within the business community that our constituencies want us to be authentic in our dealings with them.

But what exactly is “authenticity”? Some may see it as being totally open and honest in one’s communications and dealings with others. But what if the person in question is not actually open & honest at his core, but rather somewhat deceptive or manipulative? Is he being authentic when he is being deceptive? The professions of sales and public relations – while not the sole transgressors in business – are often stereotyped as being subject to “spinning” in their communications with their constituents. So much so, that these constituents not only recognize it, but to a degree, come to expect it. Thus, are they being “authentic” when it comes to continuing to provide a spin to their representations?

Perhaps an even more interesting – and to me, problematic – issue is the now increasing recognition and use of social media tools such as blogging by the marketing / public relations community. while lip service is being given to the notion of creating an authentic voice for the company via these new tools, in almost the same breath they will talk about the need to control, manage and manipulate the interactions to maximum advantage (in terms of brand protection, public perceptions, etc.). They’ll even speak to having ghost writers for the blogs, as compared to having the actual employees (at all levels) directly participating.

This dynamic troubles me greatly, as I believe this is not only a deviation from, but an actual bastardization of the underlying driving force behind all this – the demand for true transparency and authenticity in our communications with individuals and institutions.

Is the use of social media tools by mainstream, traditional marketing and public relations professionals a case of putting the cats in charge of the canaries?

Gregg Gallagher
Director, Strategic Marketing & Innovation Practice
Quantum Leaders, Inc.

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