Personality in PR: Why Authenticity Wins in the Realm of Sustainability and Social Change

Be The Change graffitied on a wall on a street scene.

In today’s hyper-connected world, where digital platforms blur the lines between personal and professional, the need for authenticity in public relations (PR) has never been more pronounced.

In sustainability and social change, authenticity is more than just a buzzword; it’s the cornerstone of communications strategy – or it should be!

As a PR agency specialising in these topics, we’ve seen first hand how genuine personality can amplify messages, build authentic and enduring relationships, and drive impactful change.

The Authenticity Imperative

At its core, authenticity means being genuine and true in what you say and do. In the context of sustainability and social change, it’s about aligning your external communications with your internal values and actions.

The audience in this space is incredibly discerning; they can spot dissonance from a mile away. They seek brands that don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk. If your organisation can’t do that, it needs to ask itself why before communicating.

Why does authenticity carry such weight?

Because sustainability and social change are deeply personal and value-driven domains. They’re about making the world a better place, not just for us but for future generations. As such, the stakeholders—whether they’re consumers, partners, or the community at large—expect a level of sincerity and commitment that goes beyond the superficial.

Building Trust Through Genuine Stories

One of the most potent tools in the authentic PR toolkit is storytelling. Not just any stories, but those that are true, relatable, and reflective of your organisation’s journey in striving for sustainability and social change. These stories resonate because they’re not just narratives; they’re real and meaninfgul experiences shared. They allow your audience to see the people behind the brand, understand their motivations, and feel a part of the journey.

Genuine stories foster trust, and in striving for sustainability and social change, trust is your most valuable asset. When stakeholders trust you, they’re more likely to support your initiatives, advocate on your behalf, and remain loyal even when the going gets tough. This trust isn’t built overnight. It’s earned through consistent, honest communication and by proving that your actions align with your words.

Authenticity in Action

So, how can organisations ensure their PR efforts reflect genuine personality and authenticity? Here are some practical steps that we follow at Analogy:

  1. Know Your Why: Before you communicate externally, ensure you have a deep, introspective understanding of why your organisation exists and what it hopes to achieve. This ‘why’ should be the foundation of all your communications.
  2. Be Transparent: Don’t shy away from the challenges. Sustainability and social change are complex, and no journey is without its hurdles. By being open about the obstacles you face and how you’re addressing them, you build credibility and humanise your brand.
  3. Engage, Don’t Broadcast: Authentic communication is a two-way street. Think of it as the antithesis to ‘outbound marketing’. Engage with your audience, listen to their concerns, and involve them in your mission. Social media platforms, forums, and community events are excellent for fostering this engagement.
  4. Reflect Your Internal Culture Externally: Let the personality, values, and culture of your organisation shine through in your communications. When there’s a clear alignment between who you are internally and how you present yourself to the world, authenticity naturally follows.
  5. Empower Your Advocates: Encourage those who are already passionate about your cause—your employees, customers, and partners—to share their stories. Authentic advocacy from real people amplifies your message and extends your reach.

Real World Stories

Some brands really stand out against the crowd when it comes to authenticity in their communications. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing/gear company is so renowned for its commitment to environmental sustainability and ethical manufacturing that their items have become an unsaid uniform among sustainability communicators (seriously, count the number of Patagonia fleeces if you’re at this year’s Anthropy or GoodFest.)

Their authenticity shines through the ‘Worn Wear’ programme, which encourages customers to repair, share, and recycle their gear instead of buying new. Patagonia’s PR campaigns often focus on environmental activism, including its bold move to donate 100% of Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental organisation. Patagonia is actively involving its audience in their sustainability journey, fostering a strong relationship built on mutual trust.

At Analogy, we work with many clients in the built environment sector – a sector that holds a pivotal role in advancing sustainability and social change. Encompassing all aspects of creating and managing spaces where people live, work and interact, the built environment sector is uniquely positioned to influence global environmental and social impacts, from reducing carbon emissions to promoting energy efficiency, biodiversity and inclusive, community-focused design.

At global construction and development company Skanska, their commitment to sustainability is evident in their “Green Projects” initiative, which highlights their effort in creating energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings.

Their PR approach focuses on the impact of their work on communities and the planet, engaging audiences with stories of innovation in sustainable construction practices.

At engineering and design consultancy Arup, sustainability is integrated into every aspect of their projects, from water and energy efficiency to social inclusiveness and resilience against climate change.

The company is also a proponent of the circular economy, advocating for materials and resources to be reused and recycled, minimising waste and environmental impact.

By sharing insights and innovations through their PR efforts, Arup underscores the critical role engineers and designers play in shaping a sustainable future.

Their most recent report, published in March 2024, shares their expertise, focusing on how meaningful community engagement and effective cross-sector collaboration can deliver social value and equity through built environment projects.

If you are interested in creating inclusive places, enhancing lives and championing equity, it is well worth a read. It is also a superb example of authenticity in PR.

The Ripple Effect of Authenticity

When organisations embrace authenticity, the effects go beyond just enhanced brand perception. They can catalyse real change. Authentic brands inspire others—be it individuals, businesses, or governments—to reflect on their actions and consider how they too can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world.

In an era of increasing skepticism towards corporate and public sector motives, authenticity signals that your organisation truly prioritises its purpose over its profit or arbitrary ‘targets’, and is committed to doing right by the planet and its inhabitants.

Authenticity separates the leaders from the followers

In the realm of sustainability and social change, authenticity isn’t optional—it’s essential. As a PR agency dedicated to elevating brands in this space, we believe that embracing and communicating with genuine personality is the most powerful strategy for building connections, inspiring action, and driving lasting change.

In a world crying out for positive change, it’s the authentic voices that will rise above the noise, capture hearts and minds, and pave the way for a brighter future.

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