On the “A” Word and Why It’s (Still) Awesome

by Annie

in blogging, the A word

I know. I’m a little sick of it, too. All the lingo, the new buzz-speak. All this talk about “content” and “value” and, yes, the “A” word: authenticity.

What does it even mean, anyway? Words, words, words. We spit them out and recycle them and polish them up and display them as if they’re gold.

Well, in a sense, they are. On the web, your words will be your avatar. And if you’re trying to reach your market — your audience, your readers, your buyers, your clients — it’s your words that are going to be doing the reaching and the heavy lifting.

Are your words doing their job? Or are they pulling a bait and switch that will just tick off the folks you’re trying to impress?

Being authentic is more than just being personable and brand-consistent (though it is both of those things in large part). It’s being completely comfortable with — it’s embracing yourself, in all your special snowflake-y glory.

Here’s what I mean: this site, right here. The changes I made yesterday. The switch to making this site about the things that matter not only to my clients but to me. I could have continued writing about these subjects in the old context but what did that old context communicate about me?

And the “me” part is important because, as is true with any solo business owner or professional services provider, I am my brand. You are your brand. Your site — your words — are telling your clients and potential clients (or your audience, your readers, your buying/appreciating public) a story about Brand You.

Is your story the truth? Or are you glossing over, or sweeping under the rug, those parts of yourself that you’ve decided, for whatever reason, don’t fit the frame you chose?

And are you sure about that decision?

I could have pushed aside the part of me that really loves working from home in yoga pants and a hoodie jacket. (And, yes, fuzzy slippers. They’re black and a little too big for me. I got them for $9 at Walgreens. Impulse buy.)

After all, that presents an image of a certain kind of person that not everyone’s gonna want to work with. Some folks are just not comfortable with consultants who don’t wear the nice suits and work in an office.

And that’s totally fine. Those folks are not the right clients for me. So, by presenting myself, in all my PJ-loving-ness, I’m doing them a favor. I’m also doing me a favor. Why should we waste each other’s time?

If you’re worried about losing a potential sale or client (or reader or listener or … ), ask yourself this: What am I giving up by gaining this sale (client, reader, etc.)?

Is it possible that gaining a less-than-ideal client, who will almost certainly never become a raving fan no matter how awesome you are, means giving up another client, who might become your greatest salesman ever through word of mouth referrals?

Is it possible you could be giving up a sense of yourself that has served you pretty well so far? I mean, it got you here, didn’t it? Is it possible giving that up might lead to a number of not-so-fun things like stress-induced illness, ulcers, headaches, or even just a constant low-level sense of soul-killing ennui?

And who exactly are you serving by not being authentic? Who are you helping by pretending to be more, or less, than you actually are?

‘Fess up, now: it would feel good to not have to worry about the story your words are telling. It would feel awesome to know that the truth is the only story you ever have to remember, and since nobody knows you like you, you can relax and focus your attention and energies on delivering the goods — that valuable content.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila March 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I love this article! I occasionally do things that might keep me from getting every client who calls, but I’m ok with that. I like your perspective!

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Annie March 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Aw, thanks, Sheila. 🙂 I appreciate the kind words. It’s hard to let those clients-in-hand go for the ones-that-might-be-better-in-the-metaphorical-bush but I truly believe it’s the right thing to do. Being true to yourself/your brand may be simple but it ain’t always easy.

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