Selling Authenticity


July 29, 2012

If you’re thinking about building, or are in the process of running a business where you serve a large number of customers, stop and watch Joe Pine’s TED talk. It’s just under 15 minutes long, and gets better with each minute.

Barely a week goes by when I don’t think about what Pine has to say. It is a simple roadmap for determining how to present any kind of service or product in today’s consumer environment where the importance of authenticity trumps all. For instance, once I peeked into the kitchen of a neighborhood German bakery I really liked. There, pouring icing on the baumkutchen were a pair of Mexican ladies. From that point on the strudel didn’t taste as good as before.

Sure, it was no different than the stuff I’d had the week before, but something impalpable was missing. As silly as it seems, I wanted my German chocolate cake to be baked by some rosy German lady. Is that too much to ask for in Chicago?

Pine points out, if you say you’re authentic (which my German bakery said it was), you better be authentic.

News organizations, as they struggle to fold in content taken from outside sources, should heed Pine’s advice. If you’re going to claim you’re the best source for local news and information because you are part of the community, you better actually be part of the community.

But, if you don’t make those claims, and have a history as a “take it or leave it” information source, then you’ve got a lot more flexibility with how you can produce your content.