Is Authenticity Overhyped?

December 1, 2017

By: Kristin Kryway Hollins

Authenticity. It’s officially a buzzword, and an important one at that. I recently attended several industry events, and authenticity was the subject of many conversations, and for good reason. People are hungry for real-ness. We seem to be yearning for real connections, tangible displays of doing the right thing, and more solid footing in our everyday lives.

So the question on my mind – can our communications industry, an industry often painted by others as producing hype – lead the way in delivering authenticity? Can we use our positions sitting at the intersection of stakeholder expectations and value creation to steer our companies to greater success by better aligning what companies say and what they do?

As a professional who has practiced during the rise of the PR industry in Silicon Valley, I’ve experienced the struggle firsthand between the desire to promote the latest innovations and the realities of what stakeholders can expect to see and when. When companies deliver on their exciting expectations, stakeholders reward them; when they don’t, stakeholder expectations are crushed and must be repaired over time.

Today, I’ll admit, I’m buzzing about authenticity too, as I know many of my colleagues and clients are as well. Thankfully, companies we work with at FleishmanHillard are strongly embracing the authentic management of their reputations. These companies are using our research and tools to understand how stakeholder expectations are shifting to identify real opportunities for differentiation, and to avoid setting traps for themselves and leaving gaps for competitors to fill.

Can we concretely identify opportunities (and risks) associated with a company’s authenticity? The answer is yes. We do that by understanding the gaps between what stakeholders expect from companies and what they experience – we call this measuring the authenticity gap. Companies that set and then deliver on expectations are authentic. Those who under-deliver run the risk of being seen as inauthentic, which can lead customers, partners, employees and investors to turn away.

I’ll be sharing some of the findings from the latest FleishmanHillard Authenticity Gap research at the upcoming PRSA Silicon Valley Media Predicts Gala and over the coming months, along with my FH colleagues.

There’s something for everyone in the FH Authenticity Gap findings, whether you:

· work for an established company or a disruptor in almost any industry

· practice internal, external, executive or CSR communications

· practice marketing communications and want to understand the changing consumer mindset

· are just interested in the topic of authenticity and how it relates to companies and leadership.

Authenticity. It’s a word packed full of meaning and it seems to be a part of every conversation. We have everything we need – the research, tools, teams and positions at the table – to understand what authenticity means in the eyes of our stakeholders and to make it a reality for our companies. My hope is that our profession embraces it not just as a buzzword, but as a mantra. As we say at FleishmanHillard: “Be as you wish to be seen.” It’s my hope we help companies do just that.

Kristin Kryway Hollins is the Corporate Reputation Practice Lead of the Americas, at FleishmanHillard. You can contact her here.