The Real Thing

Even if you aren't hiring a PR practice to help you manage your online presence (or your "brand"), projecting a more fully formed idea of who you are, what you think, and what interests you and why can help you stand out from the crowd. 

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Bots are everywhere. Celebrities are plastic. Photos are fake. News is biased. It's no wonder that authenticity is such a buzzword. We are all craving something real, yet realness is in desperately short supply, it seems. When I started out in PR two decades ago, I worked for people, plain and simple. Now, everyone speaks of "building their brand." What's more, while traditional PR was about getting coverage, today we increasingly rely on content generation to get "out there" as it were.

Obviously when putting a public face forward, it's important to make sure that it's yours, and an accurate reflection of your values and goals. However, authenticity is far more than just a ubiquitous buzzword. On the one hand, there will always be a great distance between any "real" person and what they project on social media. The cynics will say authenticity is chimerical at best and hypocritical at worst.

But that's not a productive way of looking at things. In fact, when leveraged correctly, creating an authentic online reflection of yourself is a vital roadmap in messaging. Ideally, a public presence ought to cultivate credibility and be preserved across platforms for consistency. This cohesion is crucial in the time of both influencer culture and fake news.

Even if you aren't hiring a PR practice to help you manage your online presence (or your "brand"), projecting a more fully formed idea of who you are, what you think, and what interests you and why can help you stand out from the crowd.

Here are a few tips:

1. Write it Yourself

There's no better way to let the world know who you are than writing your own material. Each of us has our own distinct voice, and it's fairly obvious when public figures have bots reblogging posts or interns populating their social media channels as opposed to doing it themselves. Of course, getting a helping hand from someone who knows your voice intimately is always beneficial, but even with my own PR firm, we see a 20/80 content ratio on Twitter as ideal, with the majority of content coming directly from our client.

2. Post Often

People will get a better sense of who you are if you're consistently posting across channels. This should be a varied mixture of your passions and interests with your personal accomplishments. It's great to let people know what successes you've had, but no one wants to follow an account that reads like a resume. Share what you care about and items of interest to let people see a fuller version of yourself, not just your CV. In today's world, people want personality in their business leaders, which they can only see if you let them.

3. Engage

Authenticity comes from a sense of connection, which is challenging to create in a virtual world — let alone in a global pandemic, where in-person networking is still potentially hazardous to one's health. One way to "reach out and touch someone" via the internet is through tagging. When sharing content you find interesting, make sure to credit and tag those who wrote or created it. This will not only cultivate virtual relationships, but will also pop up for like-minded people who are drawn to the same material.

4. Maintain a Consistent but Distinct Identity Across Platforms

Different social media platforms allow you to highlight different facets of your identity, so you should take advantage of the nuances between them. Use your Instagram to share playful, personal visuals; keep your LinkedIn for strictly business; and share your perspective while engaging with others on Twitter.

5. Tell us What is on Your Metaphorical Nightstand

What's on your Netflix queue? What are you binge-watching? What's on your newest playlist? Any books you cannot put down? Post about them. Posting about the media you consume for pleasure allows for a fuller picture of how your mind works and what interests you have. Furthermore, it can help you build community as your followers share their own media consumption, and it also allows you an excuse to tag — and potentially engage — the writers, musicians, actors and artists you love.

6. Give Unique Takes on Trending Topics

Anyone can post a news story, but only you can give your point of view. Don't just regurgitate a headline. Rather, walk your reader through why this matters to you and what you think of the issue. Better yet, help anyone who is reading your post be proactive: If it's relevant, take a moment to find a charity that supports the causes that are close to your heart — and are impacted by the headline.

7. Be Off the Cuff

A social media presence that's too refined will smack of inauthenticity. To bring in a sense of spontaneity, it's ok to crack a joke here and there or post a fun, personal picture. Of course — and I cannot understate this — be judicious: Make sure your jokes are in good taste. And never post under the influence when your judgment is impaired. There is such a thing as too much truth — you don't want your PR attempts to wind up necessitating reputation repair.

Happy posting!

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