Opinion: Faux-thenticity in your communications

Where's your #NoFilter BS gap?

Christopher Graves, global chairman, Ogilvy Public Relations

As companies and brands strive mightily to find an ‘authentic’ tone, many will fall victim to self-delusion. Who will tell them that instead of finding some inner essence, they have merely scripted a persona no one else believes?

One of the biggest and fastest growing social media hashtags is #NoFilter. It’s meant literally as no photo enhancement filters used. But #NoFilter also bleeds into the zeitgeist as a tag of authenticity as in, "Donald Trump is so #NoFilter."

When companies strike a new, authentic posture, they risk sounding like an actor playing a foreigner with a phony voice-coached accent. They risk creating a big credibility gap arising from the perception of the company and the newly-affected voice they have put on.

There is no better ‘BS meter’ than parody.

Parodists such as the Yes Men and Funny or Die mercilessly exploit the BS gap by doing parodies of corporate campaigns. In one example, viewers were shown a parody of the widely viewed Dove ‘real beauty sketches’ video. In the parody, self-absorbed men replace the self-esteem challenged women in the original.

"Who are you laughing at?" I asked the viewers.

"Those idiot men" they roar, "not the company."

So the benefit of comparing parodies reveals whether a brand has a credibility gap when adopting a #NoFilter voice of authenticity. The Dove ‘Real beauty sketches’ parody confirmed the brand values and made men the butt of the joke.

Here is a very valuable tool that will save your brand from the wrong kind of laughter: ask your own employees to do a parody of your company, its communications and branding. They will reveal your #NoFilter BS gap before others do.

Christopher Graves is global chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations, chair of the PR Council and a trustee of the Institute for PR. Follow or Tweet him at @cgraves.