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I ran across an interesting article called Keeping Marketing’s Promises that addresses the challenge most companies have – living up to their ads. Here is a point with which we all can relate:

“That is the fundamental problem with advertising: It’s a phoniness-generating machine. Think of the appeal of any hamburger in any advertisement versus the reality encountered in the actual establishment. Or think of any airline, hotel, or even hospital; if you could only check into the ads, you’d have a great experience. When you check into the actual place, however, it so often falls short of what the ads represented.”

Authenticity is what people expect and respond to. They are doubly disappointed when something, or someone, doesn’t live up to their claims.

Back in our world, it is important for us to be authentic and live up to our own claims. When thinking about the Geek Gap, how business people and technology people don’t understand each other, this is one of the challenges for “suits”. Words do have power and business people’s stock-in-trade is crafting words in a way to influence others. The problems arises when hyperbole and hubris is used to mask their own interests to manipulate rather than influence the listeners.

We all have to be conscious of how we position ourselves. When we don’t live up to our own marketing, we not only lose authenticity, they also lose credibility.

So what can you do?

1) Be Genuine and Real. It is trickier than it seems being believable and reliable. Yes, there are limits, in some situations, with how candid you can be. The key to candor is what to be candid about – those important issues that will directly affect your relationships and activities. So calling someone a dunce for not knowing something might be honest, but will have a major negatvie effect on your relationship going forward.

2) Remember it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear. Different people have different frames of references and different points of view. The ideal in communication is to clearly get the message across. What will resonate with them and how will they grasp what you are trying to express? That doesn’t mean you have to speak like them, but it does me that you have to speak to them.

3) Listen as well as speak. Now it’s your turn to pay attention to what you hear. Make sure that what you hear takes into account the intentions and the context of any objections or criticisms. And before you respond, revisit #2.  

4) Anything said will be checked. Executives and spokespeople aren’t the only source of information. There is the Wall Street Journal, any number of web sites and blogs, as well as the internal gossip line. Being authentic does have the benefit of diluting the power of rumors.

And even if you aren’t an executive, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or a couple of searches on Google can be very revealing. In the world of Web 2.0, everyone has a more public profile than ever before.

No matter who you are, manager or minion, it is not a bad idea to consider whether you live up to your own “marketing”. Everybody knows at least one person who always has a big story, a big line, or is telling the world how smart they are. The Texans refer to these people as “Big hat, no cattle”. The thing about inauthentic behavior is that the only one that doesn’t seem to recognize it is the source of it. Promise yourself to be geniune and authentic and live up to those promises of your own marketing.

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  1. Mark Yolton
    Interesting, Bob, and struck a cord with something I read only yesterday.  First, an article in “The New York Times” (here http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/magazine/29wwln-consumed-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin) about Pirate’s Booty – a snack food that may be stretching a bit by saying “all natural” and “Good for You” on the label… and a commentary on this (here http://goodexperience.com/2008/07/a-bag-of-pirates-boot.php).  And here’s a whole list of “helpful” deceptions (at http://goodexperience.com/2008/06/deceptions-considered.php).  Credibility and trust are really interesting topics these days; thanks for your thoughts on this subject. 

    Mark Yolton

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  2. Julius von dem Bussche
    In the moderator forum we have often discussed dishonest behaviour and done some investigations into suspected “marketing” games from individuals and individuals acting on behalf of organizations. I think I could write a book on it and not just a blog… but there isn’t a “Hall of Shame” here at SDN and no other name would be appropriate.

    Thank you for this blog!

    Julius

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