As marketers and communicators, we all bring a sophisticated and practiced eye to storytelling. When communicating with customers and media, we think and rethink both the message and the manner. This is as it should be. But during this cycle of refinement, we must remain vigilant that our marketing speak doesn’t drown authentic communication.
Authenticity. It sounds so simple. You know it when you hear it. Yet in business today, it can be so difficult to achieve. Is this because we’ve forgotten how effective an honest exchange can be? Is it because it is harder and riskier to drop the “should” and focus on the “is”?
Tony Radcliff, VP-offerings/marketing at Uponor
What drives authentic communication? A dialogue with your customers that involves active listening. Recently, I was privileged to participate in the biennial Uponor Convention: a two-day event that the company’s customers actually pay to attend, so they learn about how the manufacturer is engineering new solutions to help them be more competitive.
This year, Uponor management realized the meeting delivered an ideal opportunity for an authentic conversation. As VP-offerings/marketing Tony Radcliff told attendees in the opening session: “At Uponor – you ARE our friends. In the next few days together, honest exchanges can strengthen our bond and create a shared success. Our businesses are dependent upon each other as we move forward in this slowly, but surely improving economy…[W]e are hear to listen – to lay the foundation for an ongoing collaboration that hopefully erases the feeling that anyone here is in this alone.”
This brand promise embodies the relationship Uponor – and most other suppliers – seek with their customers. Radcliff’s next words offer the type of authentic communication that brings the brand promise to life:
“I don’t want to be presumptuous. There is a feeling in the Uponor organization that we haven’t been as attentive to our customer relationships and connections as we aspire to be. In fact, some of you folks in this room may have had some less-than-stellar experiences with Uponor during the past several years. We may well have some reparations to make. If so, we start today.”
Think we have total control over how our messages are perceived? Not so much any more. Consider the recent campaign waged by one teenage girl against Seventeen magazine. Sick to death of images of perfect, look-alike models, issue after issue, she took to Facebook to say “enough.” Her lone voice soon became a groundswell of thousands of Seventeen readers demanding that the magazine present a more authentic view of American teenage girls. After weeks of silence from the publisher – and news stories on nearly every network – the magazine did the only thing it could: engage in a meaningful conservation about content with its readers.
Owning an authentic message about your product – your “brand promise” – is an everyday job for everyone in an organization. Commitment to this dialogue makes responding in a crisis so much simpler and effective.