What makes a brand’s message believable? The number of times it’s repeated? Smartly written phrases strung together? Clever Facebook updates? Advetising? A fancy logo?
None of the above.
Believability — and credibility — start with intention. Purpose. The “why” behind what you’re doing and saying. Intention isn’t something you can fake. Companies aren’t transparent — intention is transparent. If your intention doesn’t align with your words and actions, people will see through you.
Two recent events illustrate what happens when you have an intention problem:
Augusta National Golf Club — widely criticized for excluding women — announced that it would be admitting the first two female members. Though, as headlines illustrate (Color Me Unimpressed | Sarcastic Golf Claps for Augusta), the announcement wasn’t exactly met with heaping praise — partially because people are questioning the organization’s intention. Did they reverse their policy on women because they genuinely believed it was the right thing to do? Or, did outside pressures force them to reverse course? As one Huffington Post writer noted:
[Augusta] did the right thing only because the current business model was unsustainable, given the corporate advertising dollars needed in future support of The Masters’ CBS broadcast coverage were likely in peril. [Augusta] did the right thing only because the gulf between the rest of the us in the 21st century and your 19th-century antics was no longer manageable.
People doubt Augusta National’s true intention, thereby undercutting the impact of the historic decision.
Know who else has an intention problem? Rep. Todd Akin. The person now best-known for his views on “legitimate rape” is facing bipartisan calls to abandon his bid for a Senate seat. Akin released an ad asking voters for “forgiveness,” claiming that he misspoke. What’s the intention behind his words? Sincerity or a calculated political move? Did he get a quick lesson the birds and the bees and now understands that rape is rape and that this violent act can — and does — lead to pregnancy? Or, is he simply fighting for his political career? Judging by the public outcry, it seems people aren’t buying his “evolved” view on legit vs illegitimate rapes. He’s not believable because his words don’t align with how people perceive his intention.
In both situations, we see what happens when intentions and actions are disconnected. This isn’t a PR problem. It’s an intention problem — and that cuts much deeper.