What Coming Out Has Taught Me About Being a Communications Professional
June 17, 2020
Each of us wants to have our differences seen, acknowledged, understood and respected. We want to live our own personal truths. At the same time, we are all trying to fit in and to be accepted for who we are.
This goal of “authentic living” is often defined by announcing our identities –living out loud and proud. Indeed, we each have our own “coming out” stories – coming out from whatever has held us back and claiming the identity that makes us feel alive.
But the truth is, real authenticity is a journey. For my part, that journey has been multifaceted. Within my religious practice, it led me to study in Israel, to take on new observances and ultimately to immigrate to Jerusalem, Israel – the place I feel most alive – in order to build my most authentic Jewish life.
However, that same yearning for authenticity led to accepting a truth that ran counter to parts of my religious identity – that I was also a gay woman, and I needed to embrace this part of my identity as well. Holding such paradoxical selves and choosing to live out that paradox in one of the holiest cities in the world, though challenging at times, also allows me to be true to myself and navigate the world around me genuinely, authentically.
This journey has taught me the importance of being real with those around me. Reflecting on this lesson, I’ve also come to understand how authenticity plays a key role in the work we do as communicators. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1) Authenticity means truly believing in our clients’ work
As PR practitioners, authentic communication is crucial to effectively telling our clients’ stories. Ideally, we should believe in what our client is doing – whether they are developing a new drug to treat a rare diseases, or they have created a new logistics automation solution to help businesses run more efficiently – we must express a real sense of purpose and truth in our communication of that client’s story. Without it, the media and anyone else we encounter on behalf of our clients will see right through us.
2) Authentic communication builds real client relationships
In any relationship, the key to connection is being real with one another. This can mean being vulnerable, delivering good news and bad. It can mean needing to tell a client when their big news may not be as newsworthy as they think or having to explain why a digital campaign didn’t go viral. Sometimes these conversations are uncomfortable. But, honesty is usually the best policy, and your clients will appreciate your opinions more, knowing that you are an advisor who can be trusted.
3) Client stories must not exaggerate the truth
Our clients always believe that they are offering the best [fill in the blank] in the world. And, while I often come to agree, it is also important that we guide our clients to not oversell. Rather, we encourage accuracy, specificity, and tangible evidence. We encourage them to show, not tell. Why? Just as in our business, over-promising and underdelivering is never a good combination and will always lead to the company losing credibility in the market.
While my personal journey to authentic living continues to teach me new things about myself, I am grateful for the lessons this journey continues to teach me. When we communicate authentically, in our personal lives about ourselves, and in our professional lives about and to our clients and colleagues, we create opportunities for true connection. And true connection is ultimately what allows us to make a difference.