Authenticity, vulnerability and bad eighties fashion

Authenticity, vulnerability and bad eighties fashion

In the very first week of my very first job in PR, I was responsible for the destruction of almost 500,000 brand new “with compliment” slips.

The slips were being produced by a large, international bank and I was in charge of signing off on them. All they had on them was the bank’s logo and the words “with compliments”

Not so hard right?

Except that in my new-found power, I somehow managed to miss the fact that the bank’s logo was around the wrong way – its icon on the left not the right.


The bank took it fairly well but didn’t hesitate to destroy them all as they clearly contravened the brand policy.

They were a huge corporation after all. They couldn’t be seen to make mistakes.

Fast forward 25 years and thanks to the brilliant work of Brene Brown and others like her, businesses, large and small are rushing to admit they make mistakes.

If the 80’s was all about power and control (and..I have to say it….tragic fashion) , this decade is about vulnerability and transparency.

As a digital story teller, I like it…mostly.

I have long believed that telling your story online is far and away the most powerful tool you have for connecting with customers and gaining their trust.

But I also urge caution.

Like shiny new toys, tools like periscope and meerkat glitter with the possibility of connection but there is a dark side to such instant and raw communication. Too much disclosure can damage your professionalism and lower your status within the business community.

Instead, professionals need to genuinely incorporate their story into the marketing of their company, making it, not an add on at the end but part of their DNA.

Your online presence needs to be “You on your best day”; authenticity matched with a professionalism that reassures your customers you are going to solve their problems.

John Hoctor of Watch Me Think provides a perfect  example of a well-thought out strategy which allows him to be real while maintaining his credibility as a professional at the very top of his game.

In this video, he  explaining how he and his co-founders thought up the company (a research company that is completely rewriting the rules on market research)in a beer garden five years ago.


Real and honest, for sure. But there is also a deep element of credibility. John then proceeds to build on his professional credentials as he explains that his product is now considered amongst the best in the world.

In today’s business world, there is no such thing as invisibility. The internet is telling a story about you whether you like it or not.

So take charge.

Just because we are no longer living the eighties mantra of “power and perfection” and wearing power suits, doesn’t mean it is time become unprofessional.

Use the tools. Tell the story.

But do it in such a way that strategically incorporates your story into your marketing. Ensure  the story is the one you want told and that it  reassures your customers that you are the one who can solve their problem.

Kathy Wilson is the founder of Elite Reputations, a boutique online reputation management company that specialises in ensuring their clients stories resonate online. You can find out more here. (

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