Want to be Authentic? Try Being Wrong.



Sometimes I wonder when the charade will end. When will impostor syndromeconvince me I’ve got no business writing online?  

Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman provided me a boost of impostor vaccine with Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. While the book’s focus is on the tactics of content marketing, it left me with a grander message.

Good content must be authentic. Fears of inadequacy or “messing up” is authentic. Want to be authentic? Let yourself be wrong.

Each section starts with a quote from Content Rules

You are Demonstrating Growth

“When we say to be authentic, we mean you should make it clear that your stuff has the stamp of an actual person or actual people and that that person or those people have the qualities (a point of view, a personality, a sense of enthusiasm for the subject, and suitability to your audience) that make for a compelling approach to content as a solid foundation for the start of your relationship with your audience.”    

Creating content is exposing vulnerability. You make your thoughts public. So what if that video could have been a little cleaner or your prose needs help? You’re human, you’re not perfect, so neither will your work. Sometimes content becomes so perfect as to become sterile.

The more you wrestle, the better your content becomes. Many of my favorite bloggers have kept up their earliest posts and recommend readers check those archives as proof that things haven’t always been so smooth. You find ugly and slapdash before hitting the good stuff. The trajectory shows growth and authenticity.

I’ve seen this in my own work. I’ve been posting short Excel clips to Instagram. My first attempts were terrible, blurry, and confusing. With each clip I get a little better. 

You are Letting Your Audience Grow, Too

“You want your audience to have room to add their voices and opinions, too.” 

Don’t let trolls scare you. If you publish your best, there will be nice people around to help you! Excel is a staple of my blog, and I’ve posted some tips which have better solutions. Rather than chew me out, other Excel bloggers have graciously pointed me to alternatives. It’s a spirit of collaboration that you only benefit from once you start creating. 

If you’ve got questions or ideas, let that become your content. Rather than looking foolish, you give your audience a chance to improve, too.

You are Having Fun

“If you aren’t having fun creating content, you’re doing it wrong”

My best professors in college told us not to think of us as the final authority, but just another student who is a few years ahead of them. 

I try to bring this attitude to writing online. I write to demonstrate what has worked for me, and to explore what I find interesting. Sometimes I find a better workaround in Excel, for example, than what I’d written before. Cool! I add that new trick to the mix.

It’s more enjoyable to tackle new concepts than to dryly repeat stale thoughts. If my blog were just to document everything I know, it wouldn’t be helpful to anyone. Instead, I focus on how my experiences as an analyst over the past few years could benefit new analysts.

Be Creative. Be Wrong.

We’re afraid to be wrong, but okay not to be creative. Writing online has taught me that authenticity and growth come with being wrong. Be honest that you’re still learning — your audience will respect you and you’ll enjoy it more.

George J. Mount is the author of Sip, Smile, Repeat: How to Crush It at Young Professional Networking Events.

Read more and subscribe at georgejmount.com.

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