Authenticity in Messaging
The other night I was on a date with this great guy…let's call him Guillermo. After (allegedly) a few too many drinks, we got into a heated argument about who-said-what-about-something-or-whatever. The details aren't important, except that he kept coming back to the assertion that 'He knows people, he can read them,' and he could tell that I wasn't being 100% honest about what I was thinking. And he was right.
It's amazing how we have an innate gauge of authenticity and sincerity when we hear people talk. It's something that we're born with. True, some of us have a more honed BS meter than others, but everyone seems to possess at least a decent ability to determine whether the person they're speaking with, or the commentator they're watching on TV, or the politician that's making a public statement is telling the truth.
And therein lies the challenge for us video producers and messaging professionals. How do we capture, create, and broadcast a specific message and have it be believed?
Sure, there's many little stylistic tricks within video-craft that we can employ: use a hand-held camera; push in to a close-up shoot when our subject is delivering a key bit of dialogue; make sure their speech is conversational, with varying pitch, cadence and timbre. These are all tools in our belt…but they only go so far. For real and sincere authenticity, the proof is in the pudding. It's not just HOW our interviewee is speaking, but WHAT they are saying!
When we're working with our non-profit clients, the 'WHAT' is easy. They're passionate about their cause, dedicated to their service, and the focus is fully pointed to missions that pull on your heartstrings. But with our corporate clients, it's not so easy. We may be creating a video about 'how innovative we are with the new release (Version 13!) of our core software', or 'how very sorry we are about the potential harm that may have been caused from a security breech of our server that we will neither confirm nor deny.'
In these cases, we have to really delve into the subject matter with our clients, bring in an outside perspective. On one hand, you have to remember and maintain the integrity of the message as specified by the client; but on the other hand, it's our job to go past the memos and talking points to re-discover the heart of our client's mission. Because even within the skyscrapers and industrial parks of Corporate America, there is always a purpose, always a mission, always a balance of 'Yes, we work to make a profit and feed our families…but I specifically work at this company, or work in this industry, because I believe in what I do.'
The authentic message is there, inside all of the corporate mumbo-gumbo…but the challenge, the real skill, the art of storytelling as seen in corporate media is to guide our clients to the place where they remember their cause.