Authenticity vs. Polish

One of my first gigs was working at the UN Refugee Agency in Geneva.

My boss, without anyone’s permission, managed to get cheap flip cameras out to some refugees with the goal of filming their lives. We hoped to use the footage in some of our community channels.

The results weren’t great at first. Imagine those old, shaky, video camera family videos and you get the idea. But after a couple of days, the refugees did something interesting. They flipped the camera around and began filming themselves. They spoke directly to the camera and told their stories.

Sometimes it was a bit shaky, sometimes several takes were oddly stitched together, and none of the footage had anything resembling professional lighting or audio setup.

However…it was incredibly raw, powerful, and authentic. Naturally, the video team hated it (“there wasn’t even a panning establishing shot”).

A few months ago, working with the Sephora team the topic of authenticity came up again. Do we need a top community member programme when there’s already a top influencer outreach programme? My take is of course! One group can give you professionally produced content they can share with their vast audiences. The other can give you emotive, authentic, content which persuades people just like them.

There’s definitely value in producing professional-level content to share with the community. At a certain point, poor production values just begin to look bad. There’s a reason top influencers gradually up their production game over time.

Yet, there’s tremendous value in raw, authentic, content too.

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