I recently had the great pleasure of attending a VIP private performance with Pentatonix, Platinum selling recording artists and two-time Grammy winning American a cappella group consisting of five vocalists: Avi Kaplan, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola, and Mitch Grassi. They are one of the most astute groups to engage and nurture a loyal community of supporters online and offline known as Pentaholics. So, they’re not only insanely talented artists they are super savvy marketers.
As they were starting to perform it became apparent that even though we were a small group, there were not enough chairs for everyone. Mitch Grassi noticed that my sister needed a chair and instead of warming up quickly ran and brought her a chair.
There were security people and VIP hosts around who could have easily and would have easily done this but Mitch thought nothing of it to go grab a chair and bring it over. Which immediately made me think of how many people I’ve seen who have told other people to go get things for their guests or to go retrieve something for someone. I, myself, have done this too.
To me this was an important reminder on how to keep things authentic and grounded in your interactions. You are still you. Regardless of accolades or titles, at your core you are your personal brand. It is what makes you unique. At Mitch’s core, instantly we saw that he’s caring, aware, grateful and humble. He said “of course, he’s happy to bring a chair.” And, from the stage, in front of thousands, he said, “none of this would even be possible if it wasn’t for each and every one of you. We love you and appreciate you so much!”
With social, we interact with so many people in the span of one hour now than we would have ever done in decades past. Because of this, a lot of these interactions run the risk of appearing inauthentic. To get the meeting over as quickly as possible so as to move on to the next on the daily checklist, we often engage in a hollow back and forth between you and customers as well as potential partners both on the web and offline.
While you can’t hope to give every single new person the same amount of attention, you can make sure every interaction you have is truly authentic. By doing so, you reduce the risk of scaring off a potentially beneficial partnership because the other party saw you as an uncaring individual.
The first thing you can do to sabotage your public persona is to appear one way to certain people while appearing differently to others. Because people talk, it will quickly be known that you change your colors based on the situation, marking you as an inauthentic, two-faced liar. Though maybe not extremely bad, it nevertheless undermines your character, putting people on guard while dealing with you even if it’s their first time every coming into contact with you. They won’t take your words at face value, and they’ll assume that it’s safest to not trust anything you say. That’s why it’s so important to never send mixed messages by being polite and optimistic online but pessimistic and harsh in person.
If you’re having trouble here, the strongest choice to make is to unify your various personas. After all, your online and offline attitudes still make up the you that people interact with. Only through a streamlined character can you build a personality that is taken at face value. Keep in mind that this personality can be as polite or as rude as you want. Authentic doesn’t mean polite, authentic simply means consistent.
Do More than Sell
While many of us are in some form of sales, when we hear the word “sales person” or even “she’s in sales”, there are often times some sort of negative perception associated with that label. This is because from past experiences we may have found interactions inauthentic and an unspoken understanding that they are trying to tell you something. Whether they ask about your day or try and hold friendly conversation on a topic you enjoy, nothing ever seems genuine even if they are legitimately trying to be straightforward with you. Around that type of person, you can’t relax. As soon as you do, it feels like they’ll jump on trying to pressure you into buying something you don’t want.
Truly authentic people never come off as having ulterior motives. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any. All it means is that, both online and offline, people feel like they can relax around you and open up about their lives without then being betrayed because you try to slip in a sale. While it might seem like a good tactic to lull someone into a sense of security before pouncing, this really only works when you interact with the person once and the interaction remains contained. Because interactions are forever accessible online and because people like to talk, the strongest choice is to actually spend time fostering honest relationships with people. Word will then spread of your genuine nature, making it even easier to connect with others.
One of the biggest landmines in terms of maintaining authenticity is the ego. Designed to protect our identities and valuation of our own worth, the ego is a temperamental aspect of our psyches that tends to overreact when any sort of critique comes our way. If we allow it to rage and rail like it wants to in public, we come off as temperamental individuals that have no control over emotions and are unable to think rationally. It’s a form of inauthenticity because you are completely blind to the effect your reactions have on others. People will refuse to work with you because there will be no room for improvement no matter how many times you claim there will be.
By the way, Mitch is not alone in staying true to his personal brand. I remember when Kirstin Maldanado spilled water on the stage during a performance and ran and grabbed a rag to clean it up herself. Yes, she’s great talent and even a greater person.
Authenticity means being real toward others and also toward yourself. Accept and address critiques as they come. While many are just noise, there are great suggestions thrown around that, when implemented, show to everyone that you do listen and take their words seriously.