For most of my career, I’ve focused most of my attention on telling the stories, through photographs, that my clients have asked me to tell. Whether it was a concept for an ad or portrait of a CEO, I took the message that was being presented and tried to translate it visually to accompany the text that surrounded it.
While that was certainly a valid — and for years, profitable — approach, I believe the culture of transparency we work in is requiring a different approach. It seems that everywhere I turn, I see the word “authentic” being used. It’s as if using the word in communications makes the communication itself more “authentic.”
Increasingly, after hearing the message my clients want to project, I’m asking about the message their clients already own about them. After all, branding is not the message we’re broadcasting, but the message that others already share about us. Authenticity comes from the perception people have, not from the perceptions we tell them to have.
What does surprise me is how unaware most people are of how they personally and their businesses are perceived by others. Awareness of self and others is what leads to authenticity. Lack of awareness of what is truly is a denial of reality.
The place I’m trying to lead my clients to — and the place I always want to be as well — is one of authentic transparency. From there, we spend less time and fewer resources convincing people of what we want them to believe and more of our energy creating the value those people want to experience.
What do you think?