Contact: Nicholas Kost
Building Brand Authenticity – First on Forbes.com
Build Brand Authenticity by Making Your CEO Accessible
Brand authenticity is an essential part of marketing that simply can’t be overlooked in an era when public trust is at an all-time low in virtually every industry.
Read the rest below or view it on Forbes here.
While the term “brand authenticity” has been around for decades, there are many reasons why it’s become more than a trendy term, especially among millennials. In its simplest definition, authenticity means honesty. But if you add integrity and transparency into that mix, it’s virtually impossible to oversimplify why millennials and consumers of all ages are demanding it more than ever before.
How this happens starts at the very top with CEOs and other C-suite executives who are the public face of these companies and their respective brands. Whether through traditional communications channels or social media, journalists are increasingly making it known that today’s corporate brands and non-profits need to get real.
To illustrate this even further, my New York City-based video influencer marketing firm D S Simon Media recently released the results of our annual Guide to Brand Authenticity Survey. Now in its 17th year and conducted among 200 prominent national media outlets, one of the key findings was that 74% of journalists reported that having an accessible CEO makes a brand seem more authentic.
We also found that it pays to get your CEO on social media; 82% of reporters, producers and bloggers get story ideas from social media, the survey found. In addition, there is a significant opportunity for message control with video content featuring your CEO; 81% of respondents said they will link to or post an unedited video by third parties.
So why have many leading brands and non-profits been slow to heed the wake-up call when it comes to making their CEOs and other senior executives more accessible? One major reason is fear. One of the most recent telling examples was during the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump was undeniably less fearful about giving reporters access than Hillary Clinton was. According to an NBC News tally, Trump held 17 press conferences during the first eight months of 2016, while Clinton held none. Whatever your politics, there’s no denying that Trump had a major advantage on authenticity.
Our study also found that, despite the growing popularity of influencer marketing, using third-party experts as brand reps puts your authenticity at risk; 85% of journalists surveyed found third-party spokespeople less authentic.
If you value authenticity, you need to be taking a new approach to influencer marketing. The idea is to look inward. Turn your own leaders into influencers instead of making influencers your brand reps with all the risk to authenticity. Doing so also leads to increased awareness. Most communications representatives (84%) were satisfied with the ability of their in-house spokespeople to help earn media — more than double the number satisfied with third-party experts.
One of the most effective ways you can do this is by taking advantage of controlled forums such as influencer media tours or satellite media tours where the questions are likely to fit the story angle they’re trying to present. Not only is it a great way to raise your profile and get your story out in key markets across the country, it also increases your stream of content for your social media ecosystem.
Still, one of the biggest challenges many companies face is that communications skills haven’t always been an important qualification for somebody who is a CEO candidate of a major company. These candidates often come from either the finance or product development side. Regardless, it is crucial for companies to groom CEOs who have experience with the communications function. That’s long overdue.
Gone are the days when CEOs could shelter themselves from the public. If they do, it’s going to make their brand seem less authentic. It’s also probably going to have a negative effect on the stock price. Your brand already exists — whether you have leadership engage or not. The question then becomes whether you are going to create your brand or let others do it for you.