The notion of authenticity in branding and marketing is arguably neither new nor complicated. It’s just devilishly hard to pull off.

And, in the uptight and highly risk-averse world of non-profit communications, it’s sometimes downright scary.

This week, six intrepid bloggers and observers of the non-profit marketing world have taken on this critical dimension of marketing, producing a rich array of perspectives and advice:

  • Nancy Schwartz offers a framework for looking at the issue of authenticity and how it comes into play in your communications. She uses the metaphor of chatting with someone at a cocktail party who is completely honest and open:

    …with the person you can really talk to, time flies by. That person is being authentic, sharing herself with you. You both let down your usual filters, opening the door to a real connection.

  • Long-time authenticity proponent Marc Sirkin takes a similar tack, drawing inspiration from a blog post by online maven and Moveon alum Zack Exley:
  • it means writing to your supporters from the campaign trail in the same way that you might write to your spouse (without the smoochy stuff)

  • Melanie Schmidt usefully reminds us that authenticity is a process, rather than a list of key messages, and that our ability to “stay real” is being constantly tested.

But authenticity is hard, partly because our job as marketers goes beyond being who we are as organizations — our job is to persuade.

  • Kivi Leroux Miller (who is the power behind this whole carnival thing) offers concrete advice on how to do spin in an authentic way:

    Even if the packaging of your message flops, as long as you were completely honest and sincere in delivering it, you’ll be OK.

  • Paul Jones offers a concrete example of marketing gone wrong. In this case, Paul surmises, the lawyers got a hold of this project, and in the effort to take out the risk, they took out the heart and soul.
  • Finally, the ever-quotable Jeff Brooks offers a review of Citizen Marketers, an important new book that highlights two complicated realities of authentic marketing — first, it involves third party sneezers who may help you or may hurt you; and second, marketers are increasingly not in control of the marketing process:

    Like them or hate them, citizen marketers are beyond your control. “Control is slipping out of control.” You can work with them, do things that make them more likely to treat you well, and minimize any damage. And by all means, don’t try to fake citizen marketers!

Want to read more about Authenticity-based Marketing? Start with this fabulous cover story from Fast Company.