What do you see when you look in the mirror?

2020 was all the buzz words we’ve assigned to it. Unprecedented. Devastating. Isolating. Frightening. Costly in all senses of the word.

As we scrambled out of 2020, as business owners and leaders, we were naturally very focused on regaining the ground we had lost. Many companies were struggling either to keep employees or to find employees. Keying in on efficiencies and profitability makes perfect sense.

But it’s not where our attention needs to be.

The lesson I hope we learned from the pandemic was just how interwoven we all are. How much we need one another. And how much genuine connections matter.

That truth was highlighted in a recent Deloitte report that emerged from the pandemic. I’ve cherry-picked some of the most important marketing trends so we can examine them in detail and walk away with some very tangible to-do items.

This week we’re going to focus on the fourth of the five, being authentically human. Here’s a snapshot of the trends I pulled from the report so we can dig a little deeper.

  • Being agile.
  • Being a purpose-driven organization.
  • Building trust.
  • Being authentically human.
  • Allowing customers to participate.

Even before the pandemic, this was a trend we were all aware of and, in many cases, were moving toward. When consumers think about the brands they love, recommend and are loyal to, they describe us in human terms. We’re helpful, we’re concerned about the planet, we encourage them, or we disappoint them.

What does being authentically human actually mean from a brand and marketing perspective, and how do we deliver on that promise?

In the second column of this series, we talked about the importance of being a purpose-driven organization. We have to stand for something. We need reasons for our existence and a set of rules for how we conduct ourselves. Values-based organizations are much further on the path to trust (last week’s topic) than an organization that is not leading with what they believe in.

So it starts with having an organizational heart and wearing it on our sleeve. But that’s not enough. Those values need to come to life for both your internal and external audiences.

Here are some ways we can move our companies toward this level of authenticity.

Asking better questions and listening with intention: When we’re moving at the speed of light to play catch-up, we often miss the signals that others are sending. Slowing down delivers multiple benefits. It signals that we care enough to take a pause. It also gives us the space to genuinely hear people’s ideas, concerns and requests.

Matching our actions to our words: The expression “actions speak louder than words” is a cliche because it’s true. We’re under incredible scrutiny right now. A misstep can be devastatingly costly. If you need to slow down to make sure you can actually deliver on your promise, that’s a very smart choice right now.

Tell them what you’re going to show them: People are very wary these days. Surprises, even good ones, can land wrong when everyone is still on high alert. Being transparent about what’s coming also allows you to set the stage, explain the rationale and the bigger picture. This also demonstrates that you’ve got a plan.

Look for ways to let your values and the way you honor your team and clients shine in all of your marketing communications. Now is a perfect time to spotlight the emotional connections you create with all of your audiences. We’re all craving connection, and when we genuinely connect with our team and our customers, long-term relationships form, and marketing gets much easier.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.