[fmco soundbites] Authenticity in business communication

[11 June 2021] Day 11 of the fmco* in Malaysia

Today, I take a break from the upside-down org chart series to talk about being authentic in communication. This applies to leaders as well as anyone else in the organisation.

The business landscape has changed and will carry on changing. Authentic communication is now required in all levels of conversations – whether it’s between government officials with the people, an employer with an employee, or between a business and its customers.

Consumer behaviour has changed and traditional styles of communication are no longer effective. Most will miss the mark. Today, your messaging must help you connect with your customers at a more human and personal level.

What is authentic?

So, what does it mean to be “authentic?” Authentic communication is about not saying what we think at all costs. According to Neil Patel, it means “staying true to who you are, what you do, and who you serve.” It also must demonstrate a level of integrity including honesty and transparency. Authenticity helps your customers relate to your brand.

Here are 6 elements that we should consider:

  1. Take responsibility.
    This means you need to take ownership for what you say and also of the impact of your message. Be prepared and responsible for any negative response. Don’t make promises you cannot or don’t intend to deliver on. Speaking to the gallery can only take you so far and sooner, rather than later, you’ll be called out. The internet does not forget.
  2. Listen.
    Listen to the stakeholders and your community. Be sensitive to the changes in climate and temperature over certain issues, no matter how small you think they are.
  3. Work with facts.
    In certain circumstances, you’ll need to research and make sure you are quoting the right facts and figures from respectable sources. This builds confidence in your audience.
  4. Tell the truth.
    Mom is right. Honesty is the best policy. If you or the organisation has made a mistake, come clean.
  5. Apologise when wrong.
    Have you heard from the ‘non-pology‘? It sounds like this:
    >> “I’m sorry you were offended because it was not our intention.
    >> “Mistakes were made.
    >> “I’m sorry some of our customers are offended.
    Do these sound sincere to you?
    If your brand or business has made a mistake, make sure your apology is sincere and express what you will do to correct the situation. And do it.
  6. Don’t be too polished; it’s not authentic.
    Company spokesperson used to be the suave character behind the podium, making a speech that is so practiced that there are no flaws in the ‘delivery’. Today, that can come across as fake. I don’t advocate someone stand up there and babble without any preparations, of course. But you don’t have to deliver your speech like you are performing a stage play, dramatizing every move. The irony is that you need to practise to a point that it looks you didn’t, like it’s your natural way of talking.
    In fact, even small flaws make you look more human and sincere and work to your benefit.

Underlying all these is the SAY-DO gap. This is the most fundamental. If your business does not operate on the same set of values as your messaging, no copy-writer can fix that. How you design your products, react to crisis or scandals, your policies on customer-service, and the people you hire and how you treat them are some examples of what customers see as your core values. And that’s what they connect to.

About the Author: Gina Phan is a consultant and trainer with Zinfinity Consulting. She currently conducts courses in workplace performance skills. Click here to contact her, follow her on Facebook or connect with her on Linkedin.

Read her other posts.

#communication #authenticcommunication #leadership #branding #messaging
#trainergina #ginaphan #gp

(Feature Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

*fmco stands for Full Movement Control Order.

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