Authentic Branding and New Media Transparency



I borrow the phrase “The End of Secrecy” from visionary and speaker Tim Sander’s recent blog post, where he reminds us “You can’t hide anymore in the new digital world we live in…this is great news for good people. Secrecy is the ally to evil. Think about the future of business in a transparent world: No bad act gets hidden, no good act goes unnoticed. What does this mean? Same things I’ve been saying since 2002—nice, smart people succeed.”

Nice, smart people succeed. It is certainly a utopian vision. But with an internet so appealing to the masses and the inherent transparency of social media networks, such a vision of a more open and honest internet is a win-win for many passionate small businesses.

ignore-smWhy? Because consumers are smarter than ever. And they’re just plain tired of hard sells and traditional advertising. In short, the digital natives are restless.

But just what is “transparency” and
why is it important?

Transparency in business today means exposing your intentions. It means providing real value first, and it means developing an authentic personal or small-business brand. And today, an internet-oriented “brand” must convey WHO YOU ARE, not what you do.

A couple of weeks ago, we met Steven, our aspiring food critic. Steven isn’t sure where he’ll sell his restaurant reviews and lifestyle commentaries: online, in print, maybe both. What he does know is that in order to succeed as a food critic, he needs an online presence. He needs to take himself and “get branded.”

My recent post, “Brand Myself? Are You Kidding?” takes a hard look at the importance of self-branding in an internet savvy world. In this context, branding isn’t so much an effort to sell as it is an effort to share. For entrepreneurs like Steven, it’s a process of becoming the business he sees himself becoming.

But how do I go about branding myself?

becky_holmes_wondering_lgeSmall-business branding is a birthing process, and it’s never easy to know who you are before you’ve become it! Yet this is exactly what one must do in order to build an entrepreneurial business online. Here are some tips on branding yourself and your business successfully:

Be authentic. Express yourself in a brand that shows us who you are—your values, your voice, and your vision. If you’re uncertain about these, ask a brand image consultant (like us) to help you develop who you are into who you’re now becoming.

Provide value up front. This means giving something of real value to your visitors. When someone arrives at your blog, be sure to reward them for finding you. Share with them your personal experiences (lots of value there!), links to interesting places, and other helpful resources.

Avoid the hard sell. With small business websites, it’s obvious when someone is being obvious. Decades of print and mass media advertising have conditioned us to avoid the hard sell. Remember your readers can walk away with the click of a mouse. Don’t make it easy for them by pitching yourself on your home page.

Think like a surfer. When creating your content, think about how you surf the internet. Do you enjoy seeing cluttered homepages? When shopping for a product or service, do you find too much content overwhelming? Use your own online experience as a reference point.

Stay tuned for updates on Steven’s brand-building adventure, as well as ideas for new business bloggers.

Messina Marketing Group

9 thoughts on “Authentic Branding and New Media Transparency

  1. The secret is out, the silence broken. It’s time to be visible. It seems that all people want is to be seen and heard, but we had built a world, where most activities were geared toward not being seen and heard. This is changing. The innate human desire to create and have our creation appreciated (we might have inherited that one from somewhere) will always win. To be appreciated, we have to be visible, naked to the truth… Yeah transparency!

    • Thank you, Philip, for your enthusiasm and deep awareness of the sociological and philosophical underpinnings of this movement toward transparency. It will be interesting to view the small business landscape in, say, 10 years, and it is my sincere hope we will not only still be having these conversations, but that we’ll continue to outline these regions ourselves in the interim.

  2. I whole-heartedly believe in this approach. But is is funny, I recently heard someone speaking at social media conference discuss the subject of authenticity and transparency in one breath and the next they said that they had hired a virtual assistant from India to do their tweets and facebook updates. The words transparency and authenticity are starting to become overused and diluted. It is unfortunate. You have all the “get-rich-quick, get 100s followers and 1000’s of website visits” experts who talk about this topic and it is frustrating. But I honestly believe that those who can truly provide value by being their transparent authentic selves will ultimately be more successful in the long term, even if some of those people spewing the company line have some success short term. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    • Your comment, Andi, about the ubiquitous snake-oil salesmen is important and poignant. It is my belief those eager for short-term success will certainly get their short-term reward. Those of us running the long marathon will see, like the proverbial turtle, that patience and longevity pay off, and pay well. Thanks for giving me ideas, too, for future posts.

  3. Any move towards authenticity and transparency is a move in the right direction. Personal satisfaction is quite often based on personal emotional connections. Those connections are rarely fostered with faceless entities. (A notable exception is Apple; it doesn’t take much to recognize the emotional connection people have with their Apple products. Have you ever seen a PC-related bumper sticker?) My favorite clients are the ones with which I share a connection and that connection is always developed through some personal interaction. Don’t let the internet get in the way of being personal.

    • Thanks, Pat, for your thoughtful comments about the importance of “emotional connection.” Our focus on the individual connection is truly the new beacon for small businesses. We’re beginning to see the real value behind each connection, as every individual is just a click away from yet another. Thanks for sharing the ideas, as I hope to write more about this topic in the future.

  4. As someone with much ambition and intention in starting her own business, this was definitely a helpful read. It is most definitely important to have presence on the internet and to do it right – being transparent, clear and honest about who you are in what you want to do. Nothing could be more important than making yourself known to online consumers and potential clients. Thanks for the information!

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