It seems like there are currently three ways to get the attention for our messages. Be shocking, hilarious or authentic.

Unless you are the National Enquirer or a stand-up comic, it seems like authenticity is the wise choice for brands. Offering a low price, touting availability and good customer service, or even being loud, just aren’t enough. Consumers aren’t just looking for value, they’re closely looking at your values—and examining what you do about them, not just what you talk about. So, one of the best ways a company can differentiate itself from the competition is by demonstrating that it is adhering to those values and its core purpose in everything it does.

Katie Delahaye Paine who is the publisher of the The Measurement Advisor, shares valuable insights into measuring authenticity.

Whenever she is asked for metrics around authenticity, the conversation inevitable begins: “How do I know if what I’m putting out there sounds authentic?” And her answer is always, “To whom?” She says authenticity is a perception held by the person who is listening to your message and watching what you do. And those perceptions will vary depending on who is listening and the environment in which they are being heard.

The authenticity sniff test
Authenticity is perceived, so in order to measure it, you need to ask yourself and your stakeholders what they think. While she’s not suggesting you test every piece of content against every stakeholder, your process does need to start with some data. Paine suggests starting with your team. Before you hit the “Send” button on any content, ask your team to do the “authenticity sniff test.”

Formally ask whether they agree or disagree (use a 5-point scale) with the following statements about whatever campaign, statement or piece of content you are about to release:

  • This is consistent with and accurately expresses our mission, vision, and values.
  • This reflects something that we do or stand for and reflects who we really are as an organization and a brand.
  • This accurately portrays our strengths and/or weaknesses.
  • It is important to communicate this message, even if others criticize us for saying it.
  • This content hides or disguises our limitations and shortcomings.
  • This content portrays our brand/organization as something other than what it really is.
  • This content portrays something we did in a more positive way than the reality.

Do this for several pieces of content or releases. The ones with the highest authenticity scores can be tested with a random sample of external stakeholders. Send or show them one or two of the best pieces of content and then, after they’ve consumed it, ask them if they agree or disagree with the following statements.

  • This content is open and honest.
  • This organization seems willing and able to back up our words with action.
  • This is consistent with the organizations mission, vision, and values.
  • This accurately portrays the strengths and/or weaknesses of the brand/organization/product.
  • I am surprised or shocked by this content.
  • I am more likely to do business with this organization because they seem authentic.

This should provide a good indication of what is or is not authentic in your marketplace. The next step of course, is to tag your content and see if it is authentic enough to produce the intended results—i.e., traffic to a website, conversions, or other expressions of support.

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