Archive for the 'authenticity' Category

Defining authenticity–Bulldog publisher gets it right

December 4, 2007

Early this year I declared (not that anyone noticed) that 2007 would be the year of authenticity. That word, like transparency, is noble sounding but not necessarily well defined. Bulldog publisher Jim Sinkinson does a great job of not only helping gain clarity around this topic, but also providing some relevant and recent examples of why it is essential.

The struggle that many companies are having relating to this idea of authenticity or transparency and translating that into the online conversation was highlighted for me in a conversation with an attendee at a presentation I was making. He said that the company had decided not to comment on blog sites or respond to bloggers in anyway, nor blog themselves, because things happened so fast in the blog world that they couldn’t get their approval process moving fast enough to keep up with it. He asked what I thought of that, if it was an appropriate decision. Hmmm. No. Address the policies which is what you can control. But using your speech impediment as an excuse for not participating in the conversation simply doesn’t cut it.

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Non-profits and foundations discover the power of saying “I’m sorry.”

July 30, 2007

Are there two more powerful words in the world? “I’m sorry.” When these words are said with sincerity and the sincerity is proven by action, these words can change everything. They are an essential part of the new world of authenticity and transparency. The truth is people screw up and make mistakes. Our litigious society has made it very very dangerous to admit to making mistakes and accept responsibility. But something else is going on as well. People are realizing that credibility in these days is based on full disclosure, complete honesty and the full acceptance of responsibility.

This story from the New York Times about foundations admitting the failure of grants is a great example the growing trend toward painful honesty, and the value of participating in it. Here’s the concluding sentence: “Foundations are supposed to take risks,” Mr. Brest said. “Sure, it’s better to tell your success stories, but there’s no harm in sharing our failures, too. The only thing at stake is our egos.”

Unfortunately, this comment shows that while the trend is good, there is a lack of understanding of why it is so important. Mr. Brest says there is no harm in sharing our failures. Actually, there is. Failures are still failures. The only reason to show them is because the harm in not showing them comes from the sense of covering up what should be made visible. Don’t kid yourself. Talking about your mistakes doesn’t change the fact that they are mistake. Doing so doesn’t necessarily make you look good. It just keeps you from looking a whole lot worse if that mistake is discovered and made visible by others because then you can be charged with cover-up, with dishonesty, with not being trust worthy. The real mistake Mr. Brest makes here, however, is in the last sentence. No, Mr. Brest, the only thing at stake is not your egos. It is your credibility. And if you lose that, you can just lose the whole enterprise. That is the point.

Thomas Friedman on transparency and the blog world

July 3, 2007

Do whatever you can to get ahold of the Tom Friedman column on the blogosphere. I’d provide a link but my local newspaper where I found the column in the July 3 edition didn’t include this column on its website.

Friedman tells about an encounter with a woman while waiting in line. She butted in front of him and they got into a confrontation. But now he says, he would never confront her. He would just let her in and apologize. Why this change of behavior? The blogosphere.

“Because I’d be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cell phone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter–entirely from her perspective–and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-can-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!”

Friedman then shares insights by a new book by Dov Seidman called “How.” The point is in this age of extreme transparency, of digital memory that never dies, of instant transfer of information, how you live your life and how you conduct your business is more important than ever. “For young people, writes Seidman, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier…For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved forever online. Before employers even read their resumes, they’ll Google them.”

And when it comes to business: “Companies that get their hows wrong won’t be able to just hire a PR firm to clean up the mess by taking a couple of reporters to lunch–not when everyone is a reporter and can talk back and be heard locally.”

But Thomas, that’s what at least some of us in this industry have been saying for some time. It is all about trust and trust depends on doing the right things (the “hows”) and telling your story well.

Friedman and Seidman also make the point about the opportunity this represents. Those who do their “hows” right, in other words conform to the public’s view of right behavior, have the opportunity to create trust and distinguish themselves from their competition on that basis.  “…it represents a rare opportunity: the opportunity to outbehave your competition.”

Great stuff, Mr. Friedman. This is the age of transparency and we’ll put Mr. Friedman in that growing group of thought leaders we like to call the “apostles of authenticity.”