Remember the saying, “Just be yourself and you’ll be fine?” The same concept applies to brands, but in the business world it’s known as “brand authenticity.” This concept is all about brands being genuine, and it has a significant impact on consumer perceptions and behavior. This blog post explores this concept and how public relations can help deliver an authentic brand story.

First, what is authenticity? According to a 2014 study on authentic brands, consumers define it as being open, honest and transparent. They also associate the term with integrity, responsibility and being “true to its mission and value.” The last idea is key, as it applies to all aspects of a business, from delivering the promised value of a product to fulfilling any social commitments.

Now we understand what authenticity is, but why is it important? In short, a customer’s perception of authenticity can impact how much he or she is wiling to pay for a product.

A 2014 study entitled “Authenticity Is Contagious: Brand Essence and the Original Source of Production” looked at how authenticity of a product’s origin impacts consumer behavior and perceptions. The researchers separated participants into two groups, telling the first that a pair of Levi’s jeans was manufactured in the company’s original San Francisco factory, while the second group was told they were made outside the U.S. They found that participants were willing to pay more for products made in the original factory and viewed those jeans as more fully embodying the brand’s essence.

Clearly, brand authenticity is important. But how can brands leverage PR to help create this perception? Here are some tips:

  • Tell a compelling story. Uncover the most interesting parts of your company and its history, and put that story out there. Also, ensure the story is genuine, accurately portraying a company’s origins, achievements and products.
  • “But don’t take my word for it.” Use customer stories for third-party validation of a product or service and to show that a company is delivering on its brand’s promise. Customer stories can be told through case studies, media interviews and more.
  • Find your voice. This is more than just deciding your company’s tone. It means defining what role the company wants to take in an industry and it can depend on each individual project—for instance, is the right role being an industry thought leader or voice for a cause? This voice can be reflected in a wide variety of content, such as press releases, social media, contributed articles and more.
  • Be consistent. Once a brand settles on its authentic story, it needs to stick with it. Customers will become skeptical if a brand’s story is constantly in flux and make them hesitant about continuing to do business.
  • Be transparent. Companies should always put the word out about their latest developments—from product releases to executive appointments. Keeping your customers in the know builds trust and loyalty. Another part of authenticity is admitting to your mistakes. Snafus happen from time to time and it’s important to acknowledge them when they do. This helps avoid mistakes being made public by someone else, which can be even more embarrassing.