Authentic (adj.): true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

This is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the world of communications; so much so that it could be considered watered down – or even worse – a buzzword.

Trend (n.): a current style or preference. We see this word a lot too – trending topics on social channels, fashion trends, etc. Those who set trends – either intentionally or unintentionally – set the standard by which others follow.

What happens when you mix authenticity and trends? You can look to the hottest celebrities to see what they are wearing, what workouts they are doing, what foods they are eating and try to emulate them, but if you do that, are you being your most authentic self? While there is certain value for companies and brands being plugged into current events and pop culture – leveraging those moments only makes sense if they are in line with company values, voice and personality.

In recent months, companies have tried to join in the ever-growing social justice conversation, with varying degrees of success (and some that were a bit … tone deaf). When companies do it well (like Budweiser or Audi at the Super Bowl), praise is heaped upon them from consumers and the media. When they don’t, it’s met with so much backlash that ads are pulled, apologies are issued, and many consumers can never look at a brand the same way again.

In healthcare especially, it’s easy to try to glom onto the latest hot topic – whether it’s trying to recreate 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge or any other “viral” moment – when something works that well everyone wants to make it work for their purposes. Therein lies the problem: the moment a company tries to join a movement or replicate something someone else has already done – it loses its authenticity. When developing programming, if it doesn’t represent values, voice and personality, consumers will see right through you. If there is an issue you really want to tackle in a unique way, there are a few things to consider/keep in mind:

  1. Know who you are, know your voice, and know your audience: ensure the theme and content of your program truly reflects who you are and what you stand for – and that it aligns with your audience’s interests as well.
  2. Contribute in a way that is relevant and purposeful: Medical meetings are the perfect example of “noise”, and companies should think about how to meaningfully contribute that aligns with who they are, what they stand for, and most importantly what will resonate the most with their audiences.
  3. Test, test, test: Whether concept testing, message testing, or focus groups – this is essential. If you have stakeholders you work with frequently – advocates, patient bloggers, HCPs – ensure the program resonates. If you’re using a spokesperson, make sure they have a meaningful connection to your brand and is someone who resonates with your intended audience.
  4. Know that it’s likely that more people outside of your intended audience are going to see this program: In the days of social media, things are shared at a rapid rate. You may want to consider testing among people who are NOT in your intended audience (e.g., testing an HCP program with patients).
  5. Not everything has to be viral: A program is still successful even if it’s only reaching your intended audience. And as Pepsi knows now, there’s nothing worse than going viral for the wrong reasons.

Companies and brands know where their passions lie. It’s our job as communicators to work with companies on taking that passion and helping them finding the most impactful ways to use it.


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