04 May, 2010

5 Ways to Be Authentic: Copy Us

Read an interesting post at PR-Squared the other day. It talked about being "authentic" in the twittering world when you work for a company/brand that may not agree with your desired level of "authenticity."

When I hear the word authentic, I think both being original and not being a corporate shill. Now we're all in advertising, so we're all shills to somebody. And as far as freedom to be original, at the confessional we work for a pretty relaxed company. Sandals are unisex office footwear around these parts, and interns here for interviews are usually the most dressed up people in the building (with the exception of our Account Director's, but they have to leave the office to go make us money, so we forgive them). So it's a relaxed, fun atmosphere. That being said, I did come up with some quick thoughts on how to maintain some level of personality and interesting level of thought for bloggers, twitterers or people who, well...these people.

1) First ask, what are the personalities of your brands and your higher-ups. If your image is stiff and the higher ups like it that way, you’re probably going to be stiff too.

2) Second what are the personalities of your clients. They may have a stiff brand, but they may be just like you; however, if your clients are stiff and and may be offended by your ribald wit, be careful, and try not to praise their direct competitors.

3) That being said, work within your boundaries. You don’t have to be shocking or “edgy” to be effective or funny. If you keep pieces informative and topical, smart people will want to read them. If you feel they're dry, keep them short and people won't have time to think, This is kind of boring, because they'll be finished reading before they get to that thought.

4) If you work for a a more “stiff” company, grow your personality slowly. Start off walking the company line, then work in a little flavor or humor. If no one bats an eyelash, continue to work in personality. If you go too far, trust me, you’ll here about it, but by moving slowly, you minimize your chance of going so far that the effects will have any lasting repercussions. In my very first blog posts, I didn't attempt to draw an allusion to myself and this fashionable orangutan, but when people got a slow feel for my personality, that tone and sense of humor made complete sense.

5) Style is subjective. Be yourself, but be smart first. No matter how funny you think you are, the whole world may not agree. I remember watching a guy completely bomb at an open mic comedy night, which happens. Now I assume he was "the funny guy" among his friends, but a big joke he had about constipation and pulling on some sort of chain a la tug of war to rectify the matter was too gross for the crowd's taste. A valuable lesson I learn every day: My funny ≠ everyone's funny. Oh, and no matter how funny you actually you are, you inevitably will say something too stupid or too offensive. People keep telling me I'm going to do that some day. So, I go back to: Be Smart.

In 3 years of being a blog, we've had advertisers call us out and tell us our opinions were wrong. We said, You have a right to your opinion. We’ve had also had 2 or 3 posts we took down–and that was mainly because we didn’t think, Oh, right, we probably shouldn’t praise one of our client’s direct competitors. As much as we thought a campaign was pretty smart, it's just not wise to make the people who put bacon on your sandwich feel you like the other guy better. Besides, that was probably an intern anyway. Silly interns.

But we've had good conversations with advertisers who responded to both criticism and praise. We've befriended many other wise people in the blogosphere, who thought we were smart enough to follow us, and we do the same. And we've brought in new clients, because they read us and thought, These guys might actually have a clue.

If you're smart, the time you spend blogging and twittering may actually make you some money...provided you don't completely suck at it.

--George C. Convery, Copywriter

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