Last year, I met an amazing gentleman who ran a nonprofit organization. Immediately taken by his passion, enthusiasm, and deep technical knowledge, I had decided to volunteer for his organization before he finished his pitch. From that meeting onward, my role was to help communicate through new/social media channels.
Walking away from that meeting, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Figuring that others would be just as impressed with his passion and enthusiasm, I grabbed my Kodak Zi-8, and produced a video interview of him.
The video came out exactly how I wanted. The gentleman, sitting at his desk, looked relaxed. His eyes lit up when he talked about his project. He went on to describe his personal motivations–some that reached back over 30 years to when he attended middle school. The resulting video was everything that I could have asked for. I loved it.
He hated it.
The man explained that it didn’t portray the image that he had of himself–essentially an uptight “professional,” wearing a buttoned-down collar, tie, and suit jacket. He lamented that my interview made him look “hokey.”
I reviewed the video looking for hokey. I didn’t find any. All I saw was the natural born leader who had convinced me to follow him…the same leader who, through this video, would likely convince others too. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get past the fact that I had captured who he was instead of who he thought he should be.
Most companies spend too much time and money on how they should be perceived instead of who they actually are. They justify this deception by calling it “branding.” The problem is that nobody outside of your company buys the charade. People have great BS detectors. Humans are programmed to rally around the authentic and to ignore the contrived.
Sadly, I don’t volunteer for this organization anymore. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I don’t believe in perpetuating the drivel that most corporate communicators are trained to spew. But the story underscores important questions that every company and non-profit should ask themselves while developing content:
Who are we trying to impress? Internal audiences that will never buy our products or services, or external audiences that will?
Photo Credit: Library of Congress