Many years ago the large charity I worked for was launching a particular employee initiative. I wanted to contact other organisations who had done something similar. My plan was to ask for their advice and learning about the communications.
I was in a junior role and felt inexperienced, so I asked a more senior colleague to cast an eye over my email before I sent it.
As is my way, I had peppered it with enthusiastic turns of phrase such as ‘I would love to hear how….’ and ‘it would be fantastic to learn…’. My colleague took one look and said I should remove all these phrases as they were not ‘business-like’.
Theses days I would beg to differ, but at the time I reworded as per her advice. Not only did I end up feeling a bit flat about my own request, I got a very muted response from the recipients.
Who am I really?
Over the years I have become more confident about my own communications style and skills. This means that I know and use my own voice far more. I communicate with authenticity to show the world who I really am.
When I published a LinkedIn article with the title ‘What makes your heart sing?’ it proved to be one of my most popular posts. I spoke about the things I love doing and why.
The title and more personal nature of the content seemed to strike a chord. In response, people said how much they liked the piece and shared details of the things that they love too. Somehow I gave them permission to share in the same way as I had. To use their voice and be authentic.
This is also my experience around talking openly in professional circles about kindness and what it means to me. People recognise what I’m saying as genuine and respond well.
These examples combine to illustrate the need for – and power of – authenticity in communications. When you speak from the heart and show the real person behind your professional face, people respond well.
You can also find ways to make your organisation’s communications more human and authentic.
- What stories do you have to share?
- How can you be consistent in the messages that you communicate?
- What is the tone of your language that shows who you are?
- How can you enable people to connect with the real you?
Words and actions
Effective communication, whether in your business or personal life, is all about making connections and eliciting responses. Inspiring your audience to take action in support of your organisation’s vision or goals is at the heart of a communicator’s role.
It is also important to remember that words alone do not convey authenticity. Your audience will also be looking at the actions that you or your colleagues take. There are countless examples in the world around us that show this point, such as:
- ‘green-washing’ (where a company says they are committed to saving the planet but continue to invest in fossil fuels) or
- ‘pink washing’ (where a company says they are committed to supporting LGBTQ+ communities but the language they use is not inclusive).
As a communicator, you need to work with your colleagues to help them understand the impact of their actions in communication terms.
Here are a few examples of authentic communication to inspire you:
- Actions and words: Overwhelm specialist and charity leadership coach, Caroline Doran, wrote a LinkedIn post about her decision to pull out of a speaker line-up for a conference that wasn’t as inclusive as it claimed to be. The decision to pull out wasn’t an easy one for her. More than that, the way in which she talked openly about the situation was a great example of authenticity in communication.
- Consistent thread: The Twitter feed for the charity, Young Minds, features a mix of messages of support, practical advice and background information. The clear connection between all of their content is a desire to support and improve young people’s mental health. This adds up to a belief in their genuine work to that end.
- Transparency: The reason I work with Alexis from Social Media for Humans to run the Time for Kindness social media accounts is her belief that social media can be used positively and ethically. She recently published a blog from Melissa Hobson about how you can be transparent in communication about your organisation and its work.
- Important to you: Taking a look at the LI posts from IT professional, mentor and experienced volunteer, Akua Opong, you get a clear picture of what is important to her. She talks about a range of topics and because they genuinely matter to her, you understand more about her and what she stands for. This wouldn’t work if she was simply jumping on the latest bandwagons.
What makes your heart sing and how do you talk about it with authenticity?
Until next time