There's something that happens when you fully own and embody your nature and your intention. When you communicate from a place of true authenticity, you're no longer holding back when you talk to clients or customers. There's no need to filter. No need to second guess their response. No opportunity to steer or manipulate their perception of you or your product or your brand. And that's a good thing.
There's an energy and focus that comes from that truly authentic place which is extremely powerful, and goes way beyond the manufactured or 'aspirational' authenticity that typifies much of the branding and positioning we see nowadays.
You can be completely present, completely 'you', completely in the moment. And from that vantage point you can also more clearly see who they are, what they need, what their concerns are. You have a foundation from which to build deeper relationships and create more connected community, and the work you do together has the potential to have greater meaning, value and resonance.
Yet for most people and organisations, the risk that such exposure represents is enough to hold them back. Let's face it, the marketing industry is largely built around creating artificially perfect representations of organisation values and objectives. To paraphrase a line from that classic children's fairy tale 'Little Red Riding Hood':
"What great values you have, Grandma," says Little Red Riding Hood.
"All the better to convince you to buy from me," replies the wolf-dressed-as-grandma.
However, for those seeking a deeper relationship with their clients or customers, it's a risk that needs to be taken. We need to stop worrying what others might think, let go the fear of adverse reactions and step into the world of possibility that appears when we embrace who we actually are (rather than who we'd like to be...or worse, who we'd like others to think we are!).
It's a process, working through the layers that sit below the curated character we've presented to the world as we deepen our commitment to authenticity. We don't need to tear them all away in one go, but that commitment does requires that we begin to surface and own what we've previously chosen to keep hidden or not fully acknowledge.
For example, you've got a great product, great staff and a great brand built on great 'values'. But you work 70 hours a week and your relationship with your family is suffering. Hitting milestones has become a higher priority than staff health and well-being. Achieving perfection is more important than delivering what's promised. Growing sales more valued than customer service.
Where are you falling short? What are your real intentions? What are you hiding?
How can you properly serve another if you're not 100% being yourself? The first step towards greater authenticity is to know who you are, both individually and collectively as an organisation. This is where the power lies. Letting the whole 'self' be seen, felt and heard, and trusting that those who resonate with you will be open to receive.
Introducing the 'Story Wheel' (as I'm currently calling it): a prototype framework (v2.1) that takes a typical brand positioning process (based on the CORE framework developed by José Caballer) and extends it. For every prompt used to build an aspirational brand position (the side of our story we readily shine a 'light' on), there's a matching one designed to dig a little deeper and explore what we're keeping tucked away in the 'dark'. All wrapped up in a repeating cycle.
The journey starts at the top of the Story Wheel, outlining the personal or organisational Culture, what many would call 'values'. From here we follow a typical branding process, working clockwise round to the bottom of the wheel. For each section we gather words or phrases that answer the following prompts:
1) Culture: How do we describe our community?
2) Difference: What is it that sets us apart or is unique?
3) Voice: How do we sound those who hear us?
4) Impact: What tangible change do we depver?
5) Experience: What do others feel when they interact with us?
After completing the Experience section at the bottom of the wheel, we step into the 'dark', continuing clockwise round the Story Wheel and back to the top. Again, for each of the sections we gather words or phrases that answer the following prompts:
6) Shortfall: Where do we fall short of what we promise?
7) Intention: What is it that drives our attitudes and actions?
8) Hidden: What is it that remains unsaid about us?
This brings us back to the top of the Wheel, to Culture. From here we continue clockwise, refining our description of the organisation's Culture, Difference, Voice, Impact and Experience based on the information revealed from our exploration of the dark. This is the beginning of the shift from manufactured to true authenticity. How much you shift will depend on how deep you're willing to dig in the dark, and how much of what you find you're willing to reveal.
At any time you can stop when you reach the bottom of the wheel, and work with what's been revealed so far.
Consider each cycle of the Story Wheel as peeling back another layer, and with each cycle the authenticity rises. A single foray into the dark may be sufficient for now, with the framework revisited periodically as comfort and confidence grows. Or it may take several cycles to get through the protective layers into something that can resonate more deeply.
And from that point, it's possible to generate strategies that more fully embody integrity and authenticity. It's a journey that likely never ends, yet it's also a journey worth taking. For the sake of your own integrity and that of your relationship with others.