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If Content Is a Performance, Is It Ever Authentic?…

"You build an audience by performing. Ordinary is boring." – Stefanie Flaxman

Producing more effective content that helps you build an audience of interested prospects is a common theme in my articles.

In the past few months, I’ve written about ways to show how likable you are and how to make your writing personal, but not self-indulgent.

And I realized that neither of those posts mentioned authenticity, even though it’s a common content marketing topic among bloggers, podcasters, and video creators.

But I regard effective content marketing as a performance, so can it also be authentic?

Rethinking authenticity

In 2007, Brian Clark had some thoughts on this topic. He wrote:

“The secret to effective marketing is to focus on the needs of others, rather than our own egocentric need to ‘authentically’ express whatever we’re feeling at the moment.”

“Authentic” could be bland. “Authentic” could be unstable.

Neither hold anyone’s attention for very long.

The right performance is what holds someone’s attention.

The right performance isn’t lying or deception

The standard of authenticity exists because lying and deception is frowned upon. And for good reason.

A content marketing performance is simply learning about your audience’s needs and providing an experience that helps them with those needs.

Within that performance, you’ll reveal true parts of your story that serve others, but what you feel comfortable with revealing will change as you evolve as a content creator.

So we can’t be so quick to judge what is or is not authentic.

Layers of authenticity

In Be a Bad Writer to Be a Great Writer, I published an image of a draft from one of my notebooks, a “Necessary Mess.”

Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been comfortable sharing such a personal part of my writing process, but I wasn’t less authentic then. In fact, the most authentic choice in the past would have been to omit the image.

I’m glad I now feel comfortable publishing it because I think the example is helpful for other writers to see — but it doesn’t make me more authentic now.

It always goes back to the best piece of content you can create for your audience based on where you are in your journey.

Damn hard performance practice

This quote is often attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

My version is:

“Easy content-viewing is damn hard performance practice.”

When your authenticity is audience-focused, you’ll:

Practice leads to powerful performances.

Over to you …

How do you show your audience who you are without revealing details that make you uncomfortable?

What boundaries do you set in your content marketing performances?

Share in the comments below.

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