The Human Experience as a PR Foundation
(AKA The Importance of Authenticity in PR)
An impactful public relations strategy reflects the human experience.
What is the human experience? I am so glad you asked. According to my 7th grade language arts teacher, the human experience refers to universally relatable themes about life and society, encompassing themes like relationships, aging, materialism, and learning personally.
The Human Experience is Relatable
The themes mentioned above are experiences almost everyone understands. Think about the kind of content that urges you to pause in your endless social media scrolling…usually, something that resonates, right? You might think, ‘Ha, that’s true!’ click like and move on. More meaningful content, such as insightful advice or anecdotes, can stick a little longer – perhaps you follow the person to continue to read their perspective in life or business.
One of my favorite examples of company founders letting their ‘human experience’ shine is the podcast “How I Built This.” The podcast lets leaders share the struggles of starting a business, what did and didn’t work. Most, but not all, guests come across more relatable after sharing the more realistic details that led to their success. On a smaller scale, look at how often Brian Chesky, Co-founder and CEO at AirBnB, posts about his dog. Dig a little more and you’ll find a story about how he sold cereal to fund the company and launched it three times.
This is what people want to see. Relatability resonates, and resonance equals reach. However, we must avoid “How do you do, fellow kids”-ing our writing. This brings us to authenticity.
Authenticity Builds Trust
Be authentic, be genuine, and speak to what you know. To be authentic in public relations is to align your actions (or your client’s) with real core values and company values. Or, to put it in simpler terms, we are all human: act like one.
The call for authenticity has been around for years. “In 2023, social media will change, with young users increasingly pushing for more meaningful online interactions,” says WIRED. This shift is called out in Meltwater’s 2023 State of Social Media report with the rapid growth of influencer marketing, specifically that of micro-influencers. According to the report, micro-influencers have less reach (10-100k) but more impact. In fact their engagement rate within their smaller online communities is three times higher (3.86% vs 1.21%) than that of mega-influencers.
People are wary of generic undertones, and they’re tired of the same old mass-generated marketing talk. They trust people they find relatable, and that trust leads them to listen to your ideas. Keeping the “human experience” in mind will help you hit the mark.
- You Can Be Real Without Oversharing – Aiming for authenticity doesn’t mean saying anything you want. Saying or writing the wrong thing can have a real impact on a company’s success. Clients don’t need to be as “real” as Elon Musk. The basics of any media training will tell a client, in an interview, to only answer the questions they’ve been asked, stop talking once you’ve made your point, and don’t feel the need to fill the space of silence. Anecdotes and stories add personalization, but overusing them can digress.
- Check Your Authentic-O-Meter – There’s a time and place for your client’s commentary. Unless they have a valuable perspective to add, they don’t need to offer an opinion. As soon as a client inserts themselves into a conversation in which they don’t have experience, they immediately erode their authenticity and the trust they’ve built. Coach them to listen, look for genuine opportunities, and only contribute when they can provide value. Listening is just as important as speaking.
It is hard to be authentic. For many, speaking to their own human experience can be uncomfortable. However, the results will speak for themselves. When we create content, from press releases and bylines to social media campaigns with human experience as a baseline, we create content that resonates. We’re forging human connections, even if it is simply over the eternal ether of the internet.
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