When it comes to your brand strategy and values, there’s one word that seems to be on everybody’s list these days.

There’s this trend that I’m seeing where people need to be “authentic” in their marketing. It seems to mean that people want to take less time being deliberate and they want everything to look and feel like it’s off the cuff. It’s an important trend to talk about and I haven’t seen too many people tackle it yet. So here we are.

If you have an expert brand, you have to think about “authenticity” in your branding and marketing. But it’s not always what you think…

It’s all about the polish

As with many, many things in life, there’s a spectrum when it comes to how polished of an image you project online.

For example, there are people that are extremely polished and professional-looking. These are the perfect Instagram feed people, those with matching graphics, and the people who would NEVER post a photo of themselves without makeup on.

Then you have people who post with very little (if any) editing. You’re likely to see them as they are. There might be a photo with a messy background, they aren’t wearing makeup, and you can tell that they just thought of what they wanted to say and put it out there. It’s exactly what their people need to hear, but there’s not a lot of polish or editing on it.

Neither one of these things are good OR bad. They are just different and it depends on what you are going for as a brand. There’s a trend these days that people need to be “authentic” in their marketing. What does that even mean?

Should you have a nicely curated feed?

I saw a post a few weeks back where a coach asked her followers what they thought when they saw a nicely curated Facebook feed. These are people with professional headshots and nice photos, plus carefully thought-out posts and videos.

It was shocking when I was the only person who said that I would think that person is being intentional and professional. Nearly everyone else said that they would feel like the person was trying too hard and that they wouldn’t feel like it was an “authentic” person. Blown away.

Being “authentic” in the comments of this post ended up feeling like people were being labeled as inauthentic for taking any time or effort in how things appeared. But it leaves me wondering if really it’s people judging those who make a conscious decision to look professional.

If you’re an expert in your industry and niche, you should be doing well enough to have professional brand photographs. That’s not being “fake”. It’s being strategic and showing off your professionalism.

But what does “authenticity” mean?

Being authentic to me means that something is genuine and real. Some people have brands that are extremely professional. They are polished. For them to show up differently WOULD be inauthentic.

If you’re someone who charges high prices, has everything in place that looks extremely polished and professional, and provides high-end services to your exclusive clients, then posting photos exclusively of you looking like you just rolled out of bed would feel disjointed. This is what experts do.

It’s OK to take the time to make things look like you want your brand to feel. That IS authentic if that helps set the expectation for potential clients.

Get comfortable in the middle with authenticity

For me, the answer for most businesses lies somewhere in the middle of being a perfectly polished image versus being a real human with warts on display.

If you are someone who is supposed to be really professional but you use distracting images and chaotic posts on your Facebook feed, I’m going to feel a certain way about you. It’s human nature. I want to see your best, not your average.

To get my attention, I want to read clearly thought-out and laid-out posts, not something that you just threw together and tossed out to the universe. I want to follow people who are intentional when they are marketing themselves and their business.

The goal isn’t to post anything as quickly as possible. The goal is to provide value to your followers. So I want to feel like the value is intentional.

On the other hand, I don’t want to see something that is insanely perfect. I love being able to see some behind-the-scenes stuff and things that aren’t just about your business. I don’t want to only see pictures that look like you have a professional photographer following you around 24/7. 

The trick is to figure out where on the spectrum you want to fall and then work consciously toward that goal. Just because you’re an expert at say health-coaching, doesn’t mean that you can’t post a photo of yourself without makeup with your kids. That may be authentic to your brand.

A few tips

I like to see a professional headshot (and that doesn’t mean it has to be stuffy – mine comes from a local park and I’m excited to get updated headshots this spring). It’s important that you care enough about your business and your image to make an intentional effort to put a polished look forward. This photo is going to be nearly everywhere and on every message that you put out there.

But I also like the photo of you playing with your kids where I can see a bit behind the curtain. That’s a great photo for your social media feed. That’s where you can show people another side of you.

Some people will gravitate more toward polished images. Some will want more of the off-the-cuff images. And both of these things are OK.

I’m going to encourage you to own your own feed. Don’t feel bad for using the professional headshot. Don’t feel weird for using Canva to create a nice graphic. And as women, we need to stop judging people who ARE putting in more of an effort. It’s OK for them to do so. It doesn’t make you or your business any less.

My goal for 2021 is to work more consciously at letting people be. It takes all kinds to make our ecosystem work. Someone else’s “stuff” out there doesn’t take away from your own.

What trends do you see that you’d like to go away in 2021?

About the Author Jennifer Anastasi

I’m Jennifer Anastasi, an Engineer turned Brand Strategist. I empower other service-based businesses to find that clear brand and online presence using my background in tech mixed with creativity (I'm a lifelong creative after all). Unlike courses or group programs, I focus on each business as a unique entity and break down complex and intimidating concepts into easy-to-understand ideas for custom results.

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