A couple of weeks ago I sat in my first Target boardroom meeting and heard our CEO, Sarah Bryars, discuss the concept of authenticity – authenticity in engagements with our clients, authenticity with our peers, with our media relations and with ourselves.
Having heard the buzzword ‘authenticity’ all throughout my university years, it is something that made my ears prick. I had always dismissed the term as corporate jargon; a buzz word that PR pro’s used to tick boxes and confuse prospective clients into signing on the dotted line. But hearing it in a new setting made me curious. Here was a successful, professional comms agency identifying the word authenticity at the core of their values?
Upon reflection, the term really is ingrained in each facet of our professional lives. So with that in mind, here are four of the ways that the team at Target have nurtured authenticity and made a believer out of me.
1. Be authentic with your clients
At Target the theme is that we are essentially an extension of your business, we want to know the ins and outs of the brand so that we can develop a PR strategy that is based on your culture, mission and ethos. Our clients come to us for knowledge and expertise and it’s our responsibility to give them an honest evaluation, and vice versa. With an authentic relationship as the solid base of the partnership, honesty comes with ease and makes for a far more prosperous working collaboration.
TIP: In your day to day interactions with clients, take the time to ask for feedback and make sure they are onboard with the direction you’re taking them in.
2. Be authentic with your colleagues
I am from the thinking that considering you spend more time with your colleagues than with your family and friends, it is paramount that you build authentic friendships that foster real connections. When your values align with your peers, it creates an authentic relationship and creativity and performance will thrive. Harvard Business School is particularly well versed in this topic of ‘friendships’ in the professional setting and the two suggestions they have for authenticity in working relationships are to understand the context and always be self aware.
TIP: I think a great way to open communication channels is to breathe and let others contribute. That small break in conversation can lead to some insightful conversations. Your ‘listening ears’ really are the key to authenticity.
3. Be authentic with press
In my experience (albeit very short), journalists are well versed in spotting gaps in a story and can smell a lack of information from a mile away. Don’t insult them by pitching a story just for the sake of pitching, make their lives easier and find the news angle. If it’s not what they are looking for, there is no harm in suggesting another angle. If you haven’t got all the nitty gritty details just yet, be honest and transparent with the journalist and let them know you are flagging the story and will come back to them with details. They will respect you for it and are far more inclined to run your story at a later date.
TIP: Relationships are built over years, not a couple of emails. Try not to only get in touch with journalists when pitching a story, it’s great to network and connect with them in a social setting, even if it’s only on LinkedIn. It puts a face to a name and shows you aren’t just a robot behind a computer.
4. Be authentic with yourself
This is one realm that I find where Target trumps all others. Huge advocates for self-driven development, we take part in 1-2-1s on a monthly basis and 360 degree peer review yearly. This approach fosters self realisation and it’s refreshing to have honest feedback from colleagues that you work closely with everyday. We plan goals, we look at our strengths and weakness and we turn the negatives to positives with training and support. Coming in to Target I thought I was the queen of organisation, turns out I am really just the pauper. Being in an office of list makers and serial checklist-ers, I’ve realised that perhaps I am not as organised as I first thought… But that’s okay because with a bit of colleague idea sharing, I am my well on my way back.
TIP: Be open to colleague ideas and knowledge, as much as we want to think we know the lot, we often don’t.
And in keeping with the theme of self development and transparency, I am unashamedly righting my wrongs and permanently restoring the word authenticity into my glossary. In an industry where the ‘spin’ reputation has plagued us since the beginning of time, let’s challenge the stereotype and take authenticity past buzz word status.