Chasing Authenticity

People want authenticity in their lives. So what does that mean for you, the content marketer?


by Dave Robson

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Take a second and watch this clip of Jerry Seinfeld on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

The take-away: Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t want to be on Late Night. He doesn’t need to be on the Late Night. Seth Meyers needs Jerry Seinfeld more than Jerry Seinfeld needs Seth Meyers. And what makes the bit funny—and what Seinfeld has become a master of—is authenticity.

Survey pretty much any product blog, look at any media star, or review any recent marketing disaster, and you get the idea that people want authenticity. So what does that mean for you, the content marketer?

Authenticity is appreciated. Duh.

Let’s face it: most people don’t trust a marketer. You’re trying to make a buck. But people understand that, and they’re more likely to forgive you trying to make an honest buck than a sneaky buck. That’s why your sponsored content is always labelled as sponsored. If you’re upfront, it follows that you have nothing else to hide. If you are hiding the fact that you’re sponsored and people discover that, they’ll assume that you have more to hide.

Authenticity is Well-Crafted

If you look at artisanal products, you’ll see batch numbers on labels, hot wax stamps on bottles, and packaging that skews more towards wood than plastic. Care went into how those things were crafted—and for your content marketing to have the same authentic quality, it should be evident that care went into its production. Beyond the obvious steps like proof-reading and clean page design, content marketing needs to be crafted like any other content and not like an ad. Sometimes clients push for things like their buzzwords and taglines to be used in text, or for ad copy to be shoehorned in there (e.g., “Branded Medicine X can be used 3 to 4 times daily, is over the counter; but users should avoid operating heavy machinery . . .”). Resist that. Ad copy English and regular writing English don’t sound the same, and your readers can tell the difference.

Authenticity is from the Source

Why do customers at a farmer’s market like to know that their eggs came from the Jacob Family Farm instead of Egg Company X, even if they’ve never heard of, will go to, or even want to look up said farm? Because people like to know the source of their products. How does that relate to your content marketing? Well, people are going to react better to an article under the by-line Joe Smith that’s labelled as ‘sponsored by Company X’ than a by-line that actually reads Company X. If your content marketing is written by Joe Smith, regular contributor, it’s more trustworthy than if written by the client itself. In fact, at that point, it stops being content marketing and just becomes marketing. Plus Google probably still likes it when you attribute authorship.

Back to the Jerry Seinfeld, master of authenticity. He’s doing content marketing too. Check out Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee if you don’t believe me. It’s sponsored by Acura. Which is a fact that Seinfeld makes fun of at every opportunity—because for an Acura sponsorship to be authentic in a Seinfeld produced piece of content, it needs to be made fun of, but that’s okay, because Acura just reaps the benefit of authenticity.