Being authentic – or, rather, the need for it, desire for it – is a modern marketing mantra.
People no longer want stuffy, corporate speak or shouty sales patter. Customers, we are told, want to know they are buying into the ‘real you’. But is this really true?
Well, copy with personality and style is certainly preferable, and more effective at building a long term relationship with customers, than tired corporate clichés or the kind of sales copy that talks at you rather than to you.
And it’s definitely a plus if your business and the way you present yourself is (in existentialist speak) ‘congruent with your beliefs’. If only because it’s so much easier if you don’t have to pretend enthusiasm. Or have to force yourself to be that outgoing, exuberant character, when really you’re the quiet, retiring type.
But of course it’s not the real unedited you that people want, it’s the version of you that’s congruent with them, that strikes a chord with their beliefs, the way that they see themselves.
Very few of the things we buy are truly necessary.
Everything else we buy is used as a way of telling the story of who we are, what we believe, and what we aspire to be.
Your story absolutely matters, but only to the extent that it helps people tell the story they want to tell about themselves.
Be you, but then get out of the way.
As Seth Godin wrote (and from which Brian Clark takes his cue): ‘Authenticity in marketing is telling a story people want to hear.’
But there is a way to be authentic, a way to be true both to yourself and to your customer, your ‘tribe’. An approach that is helpful to you and to those you want to help through your business, nicely expressed in another post on Copyblogger:
When you approach your subject with curiosity, modesty, and a sincere desire to help, you’ll find raving fans.
That’s where I stand.
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
During lockdown I have taken the opportunity to give my small (but now a little more perfectly formed, I hope) corner of the internet a makeover after, it must be admitted, a period of inattention.
Instead of launching straight into business matters, and in particular in view of the title of the previous post in this blog (very much pre-COVID19), I wanted to give a shout out to a few publications/resources that I’ve found helpful in getting through these strange times, and are also interesting and enjoyable in their own right. In no particular order:
Laura Olin is a ‘digital strategist with sisu’. No, I didn’t know either, but now I wish I was Finnish, although there’s no strict necessity to be Finnish in order to join her in acting with determination, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. [See what I’m ranting on about at https://www.lauraolin.com/]
But anyway, Laura Olin compiles a weekly email of ‘lovely and/or meaningful things’. The ‘things’ are not on any specific topic or agenda, but there’s always something to be interested in, to be surprised about; something to spark and encourage your creative energy.
I think she’s the most interesting and insightful person writing on happiness. Each week (amongst much else) she has a different interviewee responding to the same ten or so questions about happiness, habits and relationships. Last week the interviewee was author, blogger and speaker Jen Hatmaker [https://jenhatmaker.com] who spoke vividly about the importance of connectedness to us as humans – something we have all been missing in these days of social distancing.
In my latest book Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, I was surprised to discover how not just important but crucial connected relationships are to our well-being. It is the single factor that overrides virtually every other marker of health. It alone has the power to meet all three basic human needs outlined in Self-Determination Theory, it is the strongest predictor of physical health and lifespan, and it is permanently linked to our levels of resiliency, optimism, and productivity. In other words, the lonelier we are, the worse we are doing in every facet of life, and the more connected we are, the better we are doing in every facet of life. Connection and belonging matter almost more than anything else we put our hands to.
And I can’t leave newsletters without mentioning writer and artist (or, artist and writer) Austin Kleon. He is a brilliant curator who always has interesting things to say and draw your attention to in art, writing music and more. You can read more and subscribe here.
I’m a recent convert to Podcasts, but I’m really loving and highly recommended these:
How To Fail with Elizabeth Day
A blog about failure… or rather, getting through failure to the other side. Coming to terms with the things that haven’t gone right, in business or life or both (after all, work is part of life, which is why I don’t really go for the ‘work/life balance’ shtick; but that’s another story), because to ‘learn how to fail is to learn how to succeed.’
Whether one totally buys into this overall proposition or not, Elizabeth Day is an excellent interviewer and is able to attract a lot of very interesting interviewees.
During the lockdown there have been three special editions interviews with Mo Gawdat (author of Solve for Happy, Alain de Botton (of the School of Life and much else), and also now one with fashion designer Henry Holland. All are thought-provoking and offer a lot of helpful advice and insight. And are often very moving. For me, the standout (both original interview and recent coronavirus special) is Alain de Botton.
FT Culture Call
Lively and engaging chat and interviews between two engaging FT’ers in London and New York about culture high and low – a redundant distinction, thankfully, but just to indicate we’re not simply talking opera and classics here.
In a recent episode Lilah, in New York, interviewed chef Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. You don’t need to have heard of Samin Nosrat or be interested in food to find this a fascinating listen.
Finally, for a bit of fun and escape, Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs is hard to beat. These two are fun, sassy and, as with all the best conversations (or criticism for that matter), it doesn’t really matter whether you know or care much about the particular song or artist they’re talking about. Still less whether you agree with them. I can even just about forgive them for not including Tom Waits in their episode talking about songs called ‘Hold On’. His is head and shoulders above any they chose. But no matter.
What they have to say is always entertaining and perceptive. The recent episode on Nelly Furtado is a good case in point, the conversation ranging far and wide, from reflections on the emotional power of music to a certain nostalgia for the days when you had to actually leave the house to get your hands on a new album. It’s a joy, and a regular fix for me while walking the dog.
I read this paragraph. Then I read it again. It’s so wonderful and perfect I’m co-opting it here until I can write one this good:
The books were late, but of all the people who bought books, I only got one really angry note. Unfortunately she put the note in my comments section on the blog, for everyone to see. Fortunately, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, so I deleted the comment. I sent her a nice response, though. I did not tell her that she is outside the US and because I am a mail-order rube, I gave all international orders free shipping. But at least now I can say I’ve got experience in the export business.
I’m about two years late bringing this post to your attention (even later than her books!). But I think it’s a gem. if you haven’t read the whole thing, go straight there now. Enjoy.
Perhaps it’s only to be expected from a ‘friend’ site created by someone who (reportedly) had few friends, but every time the service makes an announcement it unerringly alienates another tranche of members (or should that be ‘customers’?). And now it’s doing the same with Instagram, the photo manipulation and sharing service it purchased some months ago.
The divergence of interests between the sites and their need to make money, and the users who are used to getting everything for free – and don’t welcome any suggestion that the content, created by them, is to be exploited – is the big fault line now appearing across all new media, and particularly social media.
Here the big problem is, of course, that Facebook was wildly over-valued in its IPO, and it paid far too much for Instagram. The need to start to make money is therefore pressing. But you would’ve thought (with all that money) they might be able to communicate with their members a little better than they are at present. Instead, they seem to see every announcement and every change as an opportunity to lob a metaphorical grenade into the user experience, and then have to spend the next weeks and months clearing up the mess.
I suspect they have little or no interest in the vast majority of user-generated content, but are trying to find a formula that will enable them to jump on the coat-tails of posts that go viral (e.g. gangnam style). Either that, or they’re softening up the members with this stream of smaller shocks so that when they eventually drop the bomb, no one pays it any attention.
Like many (most?) of us, I am rarely short of a good reason not to get something done – thinking more about it / trying to perfect it / waiting for the right moment etc. etc.
But there’s always a better reason to get it done. Because otherwise projects drag on, lose momentum and, in the end, often don’t get done at all.
So the latest post from Leo Babauta at zen habits that dropped into my email inbox – 4 Simple Principles of Getting to Completion – hit home. And in fact I applied the principles to make this post now, instead of thinking about it and (probably) not doing it (ever so much better and more polished) in a day or two.
In short, the four principles are:
1. Keep the scope as simple as possible.
2. Practice ‘Good Enough’. Perfectionism is the enemy of completion.
3. Kill extra features.
4. Make it public, quick.
But is bursting with the power of a thousand suns across the internet
The Ayatollah Khomenei returned to Iran in February 1979 on a chartered Air France 747 – the seventies equivalent of the sealed train in which Lenin travelled from Zurich to the Finland Station (St Petersburg) in April 1917.
And while Tehran erupts, Ahmadinejad visits… Moscow.
Well I told you this blog is bang up to the minute. Following various links (now a tangled web of forgotten steps floating in cyberspace) I came upon – ‘found’ wouldn’t be the right word; I wasn’t looking for it – a blog post from Seth Godin on ‘Why bother having a resume?‘
Topical in the current climate, but actually written back in March 2008, so almost a year ago. How some things endure. Even today. Actually, his words have become ever more relevant.
A resume, he argues, de facto defines you as unremarkable. It positions you as ‘just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?’
If you need a resume, you don’t have a reputation that precedes you; or extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows and respects; or … ‘a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up.’
Ah, so I’ll be OK after all!
In her comment on Seth’s post (yes, me and Seth go way back; or should that be Seth and I?) eSoup takes up the challenge and raises the bar just that bit higher, translating his comments into a list of things to do:
1) Create a blog that is so captivating, so ingenious, so clever, so compelling and so insightful that your potential clients feel a thrill of anticipation at the thought of meeting the person behind the blog.
Dear Reader, feel the thrill and do it anyway. Do get in touch; I know you want to.
PS I’ve just read Seth’s post for today, February 24th, where he celebrates his 3,000th blog post. That is a mighty achievement, especially given the frequency of posting and consistent quality. Seth Godin, this new blogger salutes you.