How to Create Truly Authentic Video Content

Most people would agree that the term “fake news” has been tossed around much too frequently over the past several years, to the point that this formerly potent buzzword has lost almost all of its…well, buzz. With so much talk of true and false, it comes as little surprise that recent generations (including both younger Millennials and members of Gen Z) are sick to death of dishonesty – and discourse about dishonesty. 

These are digital natives, who grew up using the internet in their everyday lives. You might guess that these young individuals could parse a story’s veracity at a glance, but the opposite is true. In a recent study of middle school students, 82% could not distinguish between a news story and an advertisement online, while over 30% incorrectly thought that a fake news post was more trustworthy than a verified one. But just because they are part of an ongoing experiment in media literacy does not mean they don’t care about the truth. 

Long (fake news) story short, younger generations crave content that they can unabashedly believe in, with no morally iffy caveats or secretly sinister goings-on to worry about. 94% of customers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency – in fact, 73% of them would willingly pay more for that guarantee. So why shouldn’t your brand or company harness these statistics by pivoting towards more authentic content?

We’ve previously discussed how to connect with Gen Z via video content, and the exceptionally high value that they place on authenticity. In this post, we will expound upon what the concept of “authenticity” even means, and how you can use it to create video content that speaks to multiple generations in a fresh new way. 

Defining “Authenticity”

When tackling the notion of authenticity, the first question that might pop into your mind is: “Can marketing even be authentic?” It’s a fair point. After all, marketing is inherently built around the idea of selling. And selling, one could argue, is inherently built around tricking, bullying, or seducing customers into spending their hard-earned money on something that they don’t necessarily need. So how can any marketing ever be authentic when the whole messy affair is built on artificial stakes and social pressure?

Source: Marketoonist

Well, first of all, here’s some good news: If you’re reading this, you’re not any old marketer. You almost certainly are (or aspire to be) a content marketer. We don’t make ads. We make content designed for audiences to enjoy and engage with, that also happens to be brand-adjacent. But even that conceit is not enough to bridge the overall authenticity gap.

So what exactly does it mean to be “authentic?”

For starters, authentic brands experience genuine empathy for their audience. That means you, as a video content marketer, have to put your own brand second to what your customers want and think and feel. Of course, this may strike some as counter-intuitive. The brand itself is always the focus of traditional advertising. But if you want to be authentic, you need to shift your perspective from trying to sell a specific product or service to selling “value.”

And what is “value?” Well, value is defined by your audience. It’s whatever matters to them. And what does legitimately matter to them? This is what you need to find out. Maybe it’s financial security. Maybe it’s environmental consciousness. Again, put yourself second to your audience. Instead of thinking about the benefits your product/service can provide, think about those benefits from the point of view of your customers. It’s a subtle, but key difference; like inserting a screw into a pre-drilled hole, as opposed to driving a nail through a plank. 

Like in all relationships, sometimes “playing it cool” is the best tact. Constantly and aggressively bringing up your brand in your content will alienate potential customers. They will figure out that you see them as nothing but a conduit for sales – and they’ll figure it out fast. If you want to play it like that, buy a billboard that screams your brand slogan to any random passerby. But if you want to content market strategically, then be subtle. Rather than center your content around what you can do for them, show that you are sincerely listening, and take action based on what you hear.  

Significant Others

Authenticity is a two-way street. While creating your video content would be the last step in any traditional marketing process, here it is only the beginning of what comes next: A collaboration between your brand or company and the audience. 

To help get started, take a look at this chart from Big Box Content that efficiently breaks down the process of creating authentic content. Pay close attention to the final two steps, and think about how they differ from those that came before.

Source: Big Box Content

When pursuing a successful sale with your authentic content, inviting engagement and creating value-driven interactions are every bit as important as generating the content itself. Like we mentioned, authenticity is a two-way street. That means your content shouldn’t be trickling down to audiences from an unreachable ivory tower, but rather flowing to them through platforms that encourage open, democratic communication. 

Your goals are to spark conversation and build community. Sometimes, that means asking a question at the end of your content, thoughtfully calculated to stir the pot and get comment sections humming with (respectful) discussions. Sometimes that means actively recruiting viewers to create and share their own content, that your brand can then promote in turn across various social media channels. The end result of such tactics will be not only dramatically increased social media reach, but more importantly, a deeper sense of connection between your brand and your audience. Remove the remove, and embrace the benefits of digital intimacy.  

Next Steps

While these broad strokes are an excellent way to get the ball rolling when it comes to creating authentic content, there are a wide array of smaller tips and tricks that you should also keep in mind and deploy whenever necessary. After all, authenticity is more than the outcome of one or two sweeping gestures – it must be meticulously constructed over time, with a strong foundation of precisely-picked details.

To help boost the authenticity of your video content, try…

…embracing imperfection.
Consumers are not perfect, and your brand shouldn’t pretend to be either. 

…speaking your mind.
If your brand does not have well-defined beliefs, why should consumers trust you? 

…responding respectfully.
Authenticity does not mean posturing, so keep things simple and sincere.

…staying consistent.
Consistency is always key, but if your brand voice is not the same across all channels, you will come off as phony. 

Naturally, none of these methods is a silver bullet or a cure-all. But taken together with the large-scale steps that we outlined above, your brand will have all the tools that they need to create authentic (and authentically engaging) video marketing content. Just remember, authenticity is not a financial pursuit – it is an ongoing philosophy that will ultimately improve not only your marketing perspective, but the nature of your brand as well. 

Leland F.

Leland F.