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This Is the Age of Authenticity. Are You Being True to You?

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This Is the Age of Authenticity. Are You Being True to You?

She built a personal brand based on beating cancer with nutrition, creating a specific diet, promoting it through her blog and publishing a book, donating all the profits to charity.

Except, none of it was true.

In September this year, Belle Gibson was found guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct, not only faking brain cancer but also lying about all the ‘donations’ she had made. She then appeared in media, non-repentant and still struggling to be authentic. Not only was her personal brand in tatters, but her behaviour also tarnished the entire natural therapy sector.

The knock-on effect has undermined the personal brand of anyone else offering alternative treatments and natural therapies. In a sector which struggles with mainstream acceptance, a wellness practitioner now has to overcome the ‘Belle’ factor. What Belle failed to understand is, that we are living in the age of the authentic brand. No matter how compelling your story, it is so easy to find out anything you want to know about someone; just ask ‘aunty’ Google. So why bother trying to be something you are not?

People buy from people; they want to connect and to trust.

That’s why Belle got away with it for so long. People wanted to believe her emotive and inspirational brand story. It’s the same reason urban myths develop and spread, then go-around again and again. Like the ‘fact’ a tooth will decay if left overnight in Coca-Cola. We simply want it to be true; especially if we feel strongly about a topic. If you dislike Coke, you are more likely to not only believe but support and spread the story. If you know someone who has cancer or you hold a strong belief that good diet and nutrition can heal disease, then you were more likely to have believed in Belle.

So, who’s doing authenticity well?

You can look to the obvious, one of the most well-known female personal brands on the planet; Oprah Winfrey. Oprah talked about her moment of truth when she was hosting a show where white supremacists were being interviewed. Based on the vile behaviour of the ‘guests’ she announced to her team that they would never again produce a show unless they had a set intention for it. She changed the show pitch sheets to have a space at the top for the intention to be set, being clear that she would not give oxygen to any topic unless it fitted with the intention of the brand.

It was a risk, especially when other chat shows like Jerry Springer were manufacturing hype to win audiences, and daytime TV was desperate for ratings; Oprah decided to be authentic to her purpose. Years later, when this superwoman of TV could have simply sat back and let her show roll on forever, or retired to her garden, she reinvented herself and launched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) television network.

Although it was not an immediate success and required massive investments; over $500 million sunk into the venture with many not seeing the network lasting a year. Oprah said, “She felt compelled to follow her calling, to take what she had been blessed with and use it to keep reaching and teaching.”

A personal brand a bit closer to home is Naomi Simpson, founder of Red Balloon and literally a standout brand in her ever-present red dress, confirms how vital it is to be authentic in your brand. A self-confessed big believer in ‘people being themselves’, her red wardrobe was a matter of considered choice and a conscious decision which has become her ‘public uniform’; helping her identify what she wants her brand to stand for.

No matter what business sector Naomi now invests in, her straight-talking, action-taking personal brand is ever present. Red has become her colour of choice; it creates a consistency everyone expects.

So, what makes a truly authentic personal brand?

1. Being yourself.

This is obvious, but in order to really stand out and stand firm in your own truth, you need to decide that you will not conform to other’s expectations. The minute you start taking on other people’s perceptions of who you are, you are not being true to your brand.

2. Having a heart-centered purpose.

This makes your personal brand a built-in part of your DNA. This is not something you can create or conjure up; your brand should flow naturally.

3. Being consistent.

A familiar image, language and presence, used consistently, make you instantly recognisable. The Queen, Ellen DeGeneres, JK Rowling, they are constants, with their own personal brand style and we respect them for it.

4. Having self-belief.

Humans buy confidence as much as they buy services or products. When a strong, trusted, authentic brand has something to say, people listen. Work on your self-development, get clear on what you want to be well-known and respected for.

Being true to you is the first step in creating a trustworthy personal brand. After all, as Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

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