The word ‘authentic’ brings about images of something natural…it is honest, and it isn’t too ‘done up’. From a communications and PR perspective, authenticity is achieved when a brand or company lives and breathes its core values as well as the messages it communicates to its audiences (both internal and external).
Actions must align with values and it must be consistent.
Stakeholders now demand transparency from companies; if you keep things concealed, you’re guilty and if you don’t address it, then you are inauthentic. ‘Hypocrisy’ is the word that comes to mind. Increasingly, across all sectors, a higher standard of behaviour is being imposed. There is now constant scrutiny from the public and other interested stakeholders, including the media. Have no doubt, the press will report on staff misdemeanour or decisions made by a company that contradicts its core values.
As a firm becomes more established and its standing in society rises, reputation becomes a precious asset that must be protected at all costs otherwise the company risks undoing the hard work that was invested into building its brand. A snapshot of a firm’s public profile can be taken from their social media following, whether it be on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. In this day and age, a 24/7 culture, people look up to the actions and ‘influence’ of well-known brands and they will support authentic brands that consistently align their actions to their values. If they spot something that doesn’t ring true, they will call it out and within seconds it can escalate into a public row with the potential to spread like wildfire.
As we have seen in the past, the public court of opinion can be judgemental and vicious, whether rightly or wrongly.
The next question that follows then is surely this. Following a moment of inauthenticity, can reputations be salvaged? While the answer to this question is dependent on a case by case basis. Reputations can be restored. It may be that it’s a storm that blows over, or the company in question needs to put out a statement apologising to its stakeholders. However, it is worth remembering that preparation and planning will always be better than mitigation. Companies and their advisors should quite early on have identified their core values and messages, and then strategised over how to grow the company in line with these. Corporate decisions and actions should align and be authentic to the firm in question.
It is not only important, but crucial, for companies to align their actions to their values. Consistency is key. If you stray from the path, people will notice and you risk damaging your hard-earnt reputation.