There’s nothing inherently refined about blending in.
— Hilary Rushford

These days it seems the word "authentic" means blending in to the Authenticity Standard. You know, that you work from home in yoga pants and a messy bun and have 18 cappuccinos every morning. But... do you? I know I don't (I have two, ahem. And it's black coffee.) It can be so confusing to understand what makes a brand authentic when we've lost the meaning of the word. So today we're going to talk about personality, and how to put your real self forward to an online audience.

This, too, can feel abstract. It's subjective - only you know when it's real and we pick up when something seems "off." It's especially hard when you think your true self might not like people or large groups of friends, so what the heck are you supposed to do with an audience of thousands when you can count your real life friends on one hand? Here are a few simple tricks to get you feeling like yourself and create the kind of interaction online that you actually enjoy. Here's to virtual friendships that feel like real ones.

Part One - The Texting Challenge

Commonly referred to as the “BFF Test,” this one exercise takes things a bit further. I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with the idea of sending my best friend an email as an authenticity check. My best friends and I don’t send emails unless they are links to concert tickets and those rarely come with much copy.

Let my constant stream of group message texts be a testament to the way I really communicate. Let it be a testament to my Real Housewives pop culture references and v trendy shorthand slang. When I’m writing on my phone, my real thoughts come out in perfect fluidity.

Raise your hand if you’ve sent the most emotionally insightful advice by typing it out on your phone. Raise your hand if you’ve commented on an instagram post that left you giggling for an hour at your clever play on words. Raise your hand if the tone of your text has effectively communicated the urgency of your trashbag and laundry detergent situation.

It seems that we’ve become more comfortable using language on our tiny screens that the Hemingway-esque image we have of lighting a candle, pouring a stiff drink, and hammering away at a masterpiece. My writer boyfriend would kill me for suggesting anything otherwise, but if you’d rather not artistically struggle every time a blog post is set to go out or an email desperately needs to be written, I suggest you try typing it out. Let your thumbs hash out your shitty first draft. 

I stumbled upon this idea with a former client, who wrote her entire website copy in her Notes app. I kid you not. I thought she was insane…. until I tried it. I tried writing out a newsletter sitting in my car at 2pm in the afternoon outside my studio. I didn’t have a glass of wine, but instead a lukewarm to-go coffee. I could faintly make out Ariana Grande coming out of the speaker of the car next door. I’m pretty sure there was a loose fly buzzing around my window. But in that moment, I was completely in tune with my thoughts. And my words flowed in MY voice, they way I would actually say them to a friend.

Later that night I pulled out a long-stemmed wine glass. I lit an expensive candle and dimmed the lighting. I pulled out that iPhone draft and sent it over to my computer. I got myself into the mindset of a romantic writer and I edited. I softened areas and became more direct in others. But I could not have adding in sincerity the same way that romantic language can be developed later.

Feeling stuck in a sea of normal? Try texting it out.

Part Two - Embracing Negativity

This one was inspired by a recent podcast on The Lively Show. In this episode, Jess comes to terms with her most recent feelings of negativity and misguided direction. She comes face to face with disappointment, failed expectations, and feelings of loneliness.

So weird that she feels that way because I only ever feel super happy and content and bursting with happiness over my perfectly curated life.

I mean who is this person who’s a creative entrepreneur and doesn’t feel like she could burst from all of the happiness and excitement at how easy it all is? How dare she burst our bubble of positivity?

Give me a break. This stuff is hard, and it doesn’t get easier.

A sure sign of an insincere brand is one that lacks the honesty that every entrepreneur faces on the journey to success. It’s a great way to lose personal relevance and start to just blend in. But this doesn’t mean creating sappy and depressing content that leaves us all feeling just a little bit depleted.

It’s about embracing negativity through the perspective of its eventual positive outcome. It doesn’t mean you have to trade in your message of hope for one of despair, just be honest that hope doesn’t always look like a bright sunshiny day. Here are two great reasons why you should embrace negativity in your brand message and speak honestly about your journey:

1. Negative experiences produce personal growth. When you allow yourself to fully feel a negative emotion, it will allow you to grow and shift. Just like the verse: "... but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." And character, integrity, goodness - those are things we each want in our businesses, but they come from negative encounters that we turn into positive opportunities.

2. Negative feelings provide clarity. Ever felt stuck or uninspired? Denying the negative influences in our lives can often leave us in a creative rut. We have to honestly assess what is making us feel sad or lonely or even angry to find a way to gain clarity around what’s not working and fix it. Otherwise, you may just be welcoming in new opportunities for negativity to cultivate if you never identify the problem and use it as a way to filter what you want and don’t want.

When communicating these experiences in your business (especially if they mean changes in the way that your business runs) be honest about the process of discovery that led you to the decision. If you’re going to be taking some time away because of a family issue, don’t just disappear on your audience. Let them know you’re going to be away for awhile, but that you’ll come back. If you want to stop offering a service because it no longer brings you joy, communicate it to the people who are still asking about it. Give them an alternate solution. The worst thing that you can do is operate from a place of silence when the answer discloses a bit of less-than-stellar information. It will leave the person who has so loyally followed and supported you feeling rejected.

Part Three - The Four Agreements

You can thank my yogi roommate Olivia for this one. Right in the middle of talking about comparison, she whips out the four agreements of her vinyasa flow class.

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

Because here’s the thing - comparison is heightened when it comes to copy. We’ve all seen it - the exact same affiliate marketing emails that bombard our inboxes, the shockingly similar blog posts or product descriptions, the social media captions that just do not reflect the author of the post. When it comes to visual representation, we are appalled when artwork is stolen and rally together for proper credit. When it comes to copy? We are slightly annoyed.

I think part of this is because we’ve all felt that feeling when we stare at a screen and try with all our might for the words to just appear. Or for some bolt of inspiration that makes our boring sentences pop from the page and beg to be read. But remember…

Your journey, and your words, do not (and I repeat… do NOT) and should not and would not end up imitating those around you. Your story is YOURS. Your business and your life is unfolding in exactly the way it is meant to - at the speed it’s supposed to, in the way its supposed to, in front of the audience its supposed to. You are going to be FINE if you aren’t the first to use Beyonce’s latest song as a reference in your headline. You will be TOTALLY OK if someone else uses the “perfect tagline” before you. Take some time, take a breath, take inventory of where you stand and why, and then and only then, write what’s really going on. I mean really. If we’re being honest, where are your true influences? Are your words coming from a deeply compelled heart or is it just an attempt to fit in? Because if you’re doing what everyone else is… well… you certainly won't look like an idiot, honestly you won’t look like much. But don’t we want greatness? Don’t we want to move people? You can’t move anyone if you aren’t first moved yourself.

So when it comes to sharing your story - be {impeccable, thoughtful, honest} with your words. Don't take anything personally {hurting people hurt people, trolls are just robots with convincing profile pictures}. Don't make assumptions {someone else's highlight reel might not even be the true story. Everyone struggles}. Always do your best {that's all anyone can ever ask of you}.

If you're struggling to find where to start, I encourage you to download our free Brand Scratch Pad. They are the questions I use as a foundation in the branding process and create incredibly meaningful conversations. I would love to hear from you in the comments about which method you plan to try yourself! 

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