Posted by Tom Gable
Last week, Gary Vaynerchuk posted a great video rant on “corporate speak” and lack of authenticity in most PR messaging. To quote: “After weeks of being in meetings where people allow the PR team to control the message and it allows brands and companies to lose their soul and message or even worse they allow others to tell their story for them I was compelled to do this video.” You can follow Gary @garyvee.
As a former journalist now with some three decades in the PR business, I’ve found that authenticity and telling good true stories break through the clutter and get attention. I mentioned three excellent books on the topic in my comment on Gary’s video: Cluetrain Manifesto, Flawless Consulting and Body of Truth. These classics show how real stories in a human voice work. There is also being able to provide clients with “authentic counsel,” which Peter Block covers well in Flawless Consulting. The book applies to all consultants, but has great threads of truth for the PR profession. Here are a few excerpts for your reading pleasures:
Chapter 3 – Flawless Consulting
Being Authentic – Authentic behavior with a client means you put into word what you are experiencing with the client as you work. This is the most powerful thing you can do to have the leverage you are looking for and to build client commitment.
It is a mistake to assume that clients make decisions to begin projects and use consultants based purely on rational reasons. More often than not, the client’s primary question is: “Is this consultant someone I can trust? Is this someone I can trust not to hurt me, not to con me, someone who can both help solve the organizational or technical problems I have and, at the same time, be considerate of my position and person?” Clients pick it up when you are laying it on too thick. Line managers know when we are trying to maneuver them and when it happens, they trust us a little less.
Lower trust tends to lower leverage and lower client commitment. Authentic behavior leads to higher trust, higher leverage and higher client commitment. Authentic behavior also has the advantage of being incredibly simple. It is to literally put into words what you are experiencing.
Client says: To really understand this problem, you have to go back thirty-five years when this operation was set up.
Authentic consultant response: You are giving me a lot of detail. I am having trouble staying with your narrative. I am eager to get to the current key issues. What is the key problem now?
Client says: If you will just complete your report of findings, my management group and I will meet later to decide what to do and evaluate the results.
Authentic consultant response: You are excluding me from the decision on what to do. I would like to be included in that meeting, even if including me means some inconvenience for you and your team.
In these examples, each initial client statement acts to keep the consultant distant in some way. Each is a subtle form of resistance to the consultant’s intervention and serves to reduce its impact. The non-authentic consultant responses deal indirectly and impersonally with the resistance (silence, acquiescence). They make it easier for the client to stay distant and treat the consultant’s concerns in a procedural way. The authentic responses focus on the relationship between the consultant and the client and force the client to give importance to the consultant’s role and wants for the project.
Authentic behavior by the consultant is an essential first part to operating flawlessly.
Used with Permission of the Publisher, Pfeiffer, A John Wiley & Sons imprint, copyright 1999.