Understanding Authenticity – Everyday I’m Grustlin’

Authenticity is the cornerstone of online trust. This is true for both individuals and brands. Master the ability to be authentic and the rest will just fall into place. Transparency, trustworthiness, credibility – they are all side-effects of authentic behaviour. You see, people respond to, engage with, and generally trust those people, businesses, and brands that align their claims with their actions. To put it simply, they walk the talk.

In order to earn trust, a business or individual must be honest, personable and engage in transparent actions with their audience. Which in theory, sounds easy. But like most things in life, authenticity takes effort, and if you’re not careful, can cause you a world of hurt.

Mistaken Authenticity

Just over a year ago, I attended a Brand Camp conference in Detroit. Following the conference, I did what most bloggers do – I blogged, highlighting topics touched upon by the speakers. Since the conference was about branding, credibility and authenticity were common themes in my post. After summarizing information shared by one of the speakers, I continued evangelizing about the importance of building a truthful, original and transparent personal brand. I felt authentic, creative and confident in my post. And then someone called me out and accused me of being inauthentic.

Oh, crap.

Turns out, in my post I’d falsely credited a phrase used in the presentation to the speaker, when it was actually coined by a core hip hop artist named Kukoo Da Baga Bonez.

Did the speaker take credit for the phrase in his presentation? To be honest, I have no idea. He might have, or I might have just missed the reference. Either way it didn’t really matter, I’d made an inauthentic claim on a post all about the importance of building an ironclad personal brand. Not good.

But at the end of the day, I have to give props to Dwayne Bryant (Mr. Da Baga Bonez himself) for uncovering my epic fail. In today’s world of online publishing, social media and infinite information, it’s tough to maintain an authentic identity. Credit is no longer paid to the proper source – it’s simply pawned off on whomever is most convenient. Individuals (and brands) need to make a conscious effort to monitor and manage their brand in order to protect its authenticity and ensure its credibility. Which is exactly what Dwayne was doing.

So, in honour of Dwayne, professionally known as Kukoo Da Baga Bonez, let’s look at the three Rs of authenticity:

1) Be Real

Don’t hide behind a pseudonym or a generic address. People want to connect with other people, not some nameless entity behind an “info@” email address. Post a photo, a video, something that says, “hey, I’m not afraid to be me.” Amplify your voice or your brand’s voice by personalizing your online presence.

2) Be Responsive

Why post your contact information if you never intend to respond to the messages you receive? If your customers are taking the time to contact you, the least you can do is contact them back. Dwayne took the time to find, read, and comment on my post – it was only fair that I take the time to respond back.

3) Be Respectful

No matter how hard you try, you’re going to screw up. That’s the name of the game. The trick is learning how to own it. When Dwayne commented on my blog, sure, I felt like a moron. I could have ignored him; deleted his comment and never thought about it again. Yes, it would have saved me the embarrassment, but it would have been the ultimate form of disrespect to Dwayne. He took the time to right a wrong and manage the Kukoo Da Baga Bonez brand. He deserved my respect and was entitled to a fair response.

So, now when I’m grustlin’ I have Dwayne a.k.a. KukBonez Da GRUSTLER to thank. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Kukoo Da Baga Bonez a.k.a. “Da GRUSTLER” is an independent hip hop artist and entrepreneur from New York that has been putting in work consistently in the music industry since the mid 90′s and has crossed over into several markets since he debuted with his certified underground classic “Da Real Kukoo”. Co-founder at Vitalize Labs/Eboost, Josh Taekman recognizes Kukoo Da Baga Bonez as a leader and a pioneer.