Keeping it Real
‘Authentic’ has been the buzz term in the marketing and communications world for some time now – everything must look and sound natural or organic. When public relations professionals admire a piece of work, it is often praised for being ‘authentic’, it is the ultimate compliment. Of course, in there somewhere may lie an admission to the fundamental inauthenticity of most if not all PR. If it is a construct – premeditated, plotted and produced – can it also be authentic? I think it can. Take live music, theatre or good comedy: it is authentic, it’s real and in the moment but it is also a rehearsed, repetitive and quite produced so that it can be repeated endlessly – especially as acts now have to tour endlessly for an income.
The trick to retaining some authenticity is to resist the temptation that slogan marketing and advertorials offer – that is, its illusion to you being able to control the message and control the audience’s response through the sheer power of marketing messaging. In the adversarial world of politics, this temptation must be all the greater. However, it is only by actually accommodating a critique, some debate and feedback, that the pre-mediated, plotted and over-produced feel of most slogan marketing can still achieve some degree of authenticity.
Good PR and reputation building is still all about storytelling. We have had much commentary in Ireland in recent days about advertorials and the limitations of slogan marketing as an effective PR device. When marketing is overplayed and forced, it negates the very authenticity it is seeks to convey.
At UL, we have been making our own shift away from corporate messaging and towards genuine storytelling for the digital age. Our latest UL Links has gone live across social and digital channels nationally and internationally and in The Irish Times nationwide. We have focused on the people at the core of each story and presenting them in the most compelling content. Our own slogan marketing is put aside to make way for genuine people and their very real stories – we are trusting the audience to make the connection between the university and these amazing students, graduates and academics – rather than forcing a corporate message.
We also collaborated with publishers Harmonia in producing these stories to bring a real publishing mind-set to bear on our stories and I think that has had an impact too. I would like to thank the gang at Harmonia, the many contributors across UL and beyond and last but not least, my own marketing and communications colleagues for collaborating so positively on this particularly creative project.
I hope you enjoy these stories and I hope you find they are what I believe them to be - authentic, organic and very real.
Please check them out here and do let us have your feedback!