The authenticity of your content marketing, especially brand storytelling, is actually measurable. Learn how to measure authenticity and to avoid pitfalls that could cause you to come across as disingenuous to your audience.
We have uncovered a phenomenon in brand storytelling.
Originally spotted while we were performing an analysis for a large pharmaceutical brand, this phenomenon has since popped up in several other brand profiles, as well.
We were analyzing this pharma company’s “brand” content (where, unlike in “drug” content, the pharma company is not allowed to sell specific branded drugs). In this content, there was one particular showcase piece the brand (and their agency) was particularly proud of. It was a long form piece and was clearly constructed to unfurl a story that would be meaningful and interesting, particularly for certain patient types and their support systems (family and friends). We noticed an interesting scoring profile for the piece.
While the piece had good storytelling scores for communicating the patient’s situation, reflecting the state of mind of the patient and the trigger event (diagnosis in this case), scores for the other points on the storytelling arc were conspicuously low. Also, the brand communication scores (the brand talking about itself) were particularly high for this piece.
When we see what looks to be anomalies in the data, we investigate. And what we discovered was very interesting: the scores were right.
This long form piece began by centering on a particular patient story. It described this patient’s life and the wonderful friends/family she was so lucky to have. It described how happy she was in this life and then described the tragic turn her life took with a devastating diagnosis.
Then suddenly the piece took a left turn and began to talk about the history of the company’s innovation in the treatment of this particular affliction, how they have evolved and their leadership position in this cutting edge treatment approach. All of this was fine—except we completely left the woman at the beginning of the story behind. What happened with her?
The article had a feel of a complete “bait and switch,” and I found myself scanning the article for the rest of that woman’s story. I realized “the switch” was the fact that the article was not really about the woman; it was about the brand itself.
That is when we learned authenticity is measurable.
We have seen examples like this in various forms since the initial realizations and leave you with these tips to evaluate your brand’s authenticity in communication.
Don’t check a box, deliver value
If your organizational attitude is to engage your market with content marketing because you “feel like you should”, then it’s more than likely coming across as inauthentic. We will usually find evidence of this through heavy scores in particular areas but very low scores in others.
For example, some brands know educating your audience is an important component of driving engagement. When we see high volumes of re-purposed research content but low scores for insightful and instructional communication, we know that the brand is likely fulfilling a requirement to educate, not authentically attempting to educate.
Curate content that aligns with your brand purpose
Occasionally, we see brands that curate content that isn’t at all aligned with the business the brand is even in. If you’re a telecommunications company, people are not likely to look to you for social media marketing advice (yes, that’s a real example). I know there is a school of thought that driving any sort of engagement is better than none, but I just fundamentally disagree. It confuses your brand position. Don’t do it.
The customer is the hero of your brand story
Maybe the least understood concept we see in brand storytelling is that the customer is the hero of your story, not the brand. In the example above, the brand started the right way but then took a left turn to make their own brand the hero. That’s a mistake.
Make the customer the hero by offering them value that makes them better. Your audience will eventually realize that you are therefore valuable.
If you’re going to promote a dialogue, be organizationally ready
Maybe the most egregious example of inauthenticity we see is when a brand opens up lines of communication to have a dialogue and then doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain. Don’t offer community forums, product review capabilities, live chat, etc. unless you’re prepared to support them appropriately.
We have seen incredibly damaging examples of community forum questions going unanswered or blank product review pages that we call the “tumbleweed effect.” When looking at page after page of blank review pages, one gets the feeling a digital tumbleweed is going to blow past on your screen. You have to be operationally ready to solicit review feedback and be responsive to the feedback when you get it. If you’re not ready, don’t do it; it’s inauthentic.
All of these examples can be detected by our content engine and enable us to measure authenticity. We’re happy to see many content marketers doing a good job in these areas. Unfortunately, we have also seen our fair share of misses. Hopefully these tips will help you ensure authenticity from your brand.