Authentic. For such a popular word buzzing between brands, it’s amazing how many business owners and entrepreneurs fail to show up and access their audience, authentically. When it comes to representing yourself, your business, and your brand with authenticity, the key is cohesion. You can’t, for example, separate your online presence from the real you who shows up at networking events and client meetings. I mean, you can… but you shouldn’t.
Because no one likes to feel fooled. If your digital diva is all about fashion, glamour, and tracking every trend, showing up to a client meeting in ratty Converse and overalls that you’ve had and patched since the 90s isn’t going to cut it. You’ve sold an image that isn’t in line with reality and your client -- or worse yet, your potential client -- winds up feeling duped and distrustful of you.
Here’s the bottom line: Being yourself in your professional photos, as well as your behind-the- scenes sneak peeks, Facebook Lives, and real life interactions, helps build your credibility. It does you harm to pretend to be one person on your website, and then show up to your clients as yourself. You lose trust, and respect, and that's hard to gain back. Start your relationship with your audience and your clients on the right foot, and be yourself.
So, how can you attract and engage your audience in a consistently authentic way?
Unfortunately, what should be as simple as my suggestion “be yourself,” often isn’t for many business owners. Whether it’s a lack of trust in ourselves, fear of failure, or just a crisis of confidence overall, truly being ourselves sometimes requires a leap of faith and the sincere belief that who we are, what we have to say, and what we can offer those around us is valuable… and unique!
So, because we’re all human and will surely suffer moments of self-doubt from time to time, commit this little mantra to memory, courtesy of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself… everyone else is already taken.”
Here are my top three tried-and- true tips that allow me to always be my authentic self, no matter what.
It almost doesn’t matter what your product or service is when it comes to showing up and establishing yourself within the right circles. What do I mean? Well, if you’ve just launched a marketing agency, for example, and you want to build your client base on a foundation of local businesses, it is your job to attend events in your community. And not just a one-off networking luncheon or conversation over coffee. Consistency is key to establishing your authentic presence in front of your target audience.
Meeting fellow entrepreneurs and business owners face-to- face is invaluable and a great way to start building your authentic network. Think of it as the difference between catching up with a friend over lunch versus on Facebook messenger. In our increasingly digitally-dominated, screen-shared age, there is no substitute for communication in real time.
Share and Share Alike
Another simple, yet super important step to supporting yourself and your brand authentically is to demonstrate value before the sales pitch. In other words, share some of your hard-earned knowledge for free. A few pearls of wisdom gifted to your audience will go a long way in strengthening the thread of trust between you. When your audience believes that your product or service has value, based on your knowledge and generosity in sharing said knowledge, you have just become an authentic and trusted resource they will soon seek to hire. And this is a two-way street! Most people like to return a favor and will be only too happy to share a strategy or suggestion with you, as well. The mutual exchange of support is another tool in your authenticity arsenal.
In a way, you’re already doing this by showing up and sharing your knowledge. But, when I suggest you seek support what I really mean is you actively build your base, your tribe, you bevy of bosses… however you want to phrase it because finding your like-minded people demonstrates an authentic desire to strengthen and grow your brand.
Why, for example, would you sit alone on your laptop researching blogging tips, how to pose for headshots, or how to manage an email campaign when you are likely surrounded by professionals who have already done the legwork and are more than happy to help you find your footing?
As you all know, we find strength in numbers. Perhaps better said, consider this African proverb:
Do you intend to go fast or far? What are you doing to build your authentic brand and life? If you're ready to show up in photos as you are in real life, then let's book a session and make them gorgeous.