Trust Starts With The Storyteller
- May 14, 2018
- Posted by: Robert Rose
- Category: Content Marketing
There’s a lot of talk about the concept of authenticity in content marketing. But most discussions about authenticity would be better off using other words, like “honesty,” “trustworthiness,” or “transparency” to communicate the point.
After all, the primary definition of “authentic” is simply “of undisputed origin; genuine,” as in an authentic Andy Warhol painting. Other definitions include “accurate or reliable” or “based on facts,” as in an authentic depiction of that historic event. So, yeah, you can be an authentic jerk. You can be an authentic liar.
Your brand can be authentic, and still be distrusted.
I recently spoke with a team at a big, fairly well-known brand that’s trying to tell an ongoing story through a branded magazine and social media. Comment after comment and poll after poll told them the same thing: The audience just didn’t care and didn’t trust the brand to tell that story.
There are well-documented examples of other brands struggling with distrust. Starbucks famously tripped on its #RaceTogether story in 2015. It was certainly an authentic and earnest effort. The company gathered employees in six major cities, rolled out content describing their efforts in sponsored sections in USA Today, and then tried to engage customers in discussions about race by giving baristas the option to write “Race Together” on customers’ cups.
Now, in the failure of #RaceTogether, there are lots of flaws to point out: The notion that anyone really wants to have an incredibly complex and honest discussion with a barista while getting a fast-serve cup of coffee is one.
But the primary challenge is the storyteller. Starbucks simply hadn’t earned the trust to tell the race relations story yet.
In pop culture, we see this all the time. Anybody remember country megastar Garth Brooks’ brief experiment with rock ‘n’ roll alter ego Chris Gaines? That was a fail. Then there’s Grace Helbig, who couldn’t translate her very popular YouTube presence to a television talk show. And, most recently, we saw social media star Casey Neistat fail to launch a digital news and opinion initiative for CNN.
In each of these cases (and certainly thousands of others), there was a failure to recognize that trust starts with the storyteller. It’s not that Garth was insincere about his love for singing rock ‘n’ roll. Grace Helbig is authentically funny. And, of course, Casey Neistat is known for being an authentic storyteller.
But an authentic story, told by a storyteller who hasn’t yet created trust with a specific audience will always fail.
The big brand I mentioned was creating incredible content. These were honest, passionate, and true stories told in a humorous way. But because the team was telling these stories through the mouth of their giant, well-known brand, they might as well have been Garth Brooks trying to sing rock and roll. Nobody was willing to give that a chance.
The answer for them? One experiment they’re trying is to break the magazine away from the corporate voice and brand. Creating a separate content brand gives them the opportunity to create a trusted voice (and an engaged audience) without the challenge of the better known but less trusted storyteller behind them.
This, of course, changes the goals and purpose of the magazine. Only time will tell if they can successfully make those goals align with the business.
There’s a wonderful quote by the author John Maxwell. He says, “people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” The same can be said for the stories we tell.
If your audience doesn’t believe in the storyteller, the story won’t matter.
It’s your story. Tell it well.