According to Ibinye Olayide (Marriage and Family Therapist):
“It’s important to show up authentically so that genuine intimacy [can be shared]. Intimacy helps people feel safe, share their struggles and their joys and develop a deep level of closeness. When we do not show up authentically…the level of closeness [within a relationship] will be limited”.
These principles are also true as it relates to cultivating a community around your brand or business because, as the old adage says, people will only do business with people that they know, like and trust. But how do we go about achieving this?
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s recent Ted talk is a masterclass on exactly what it takes to show up authentically as it relates to her.
#1 Personal styling
From your religious beliefs, nationality, favourite genre of music to your personality- “style is a way to say who you are without saying a word” (Rachel Zoe). With this in mind, it’s worth noting that Sheryl Lee Ralph was communicating before she even began her speech and that her style of dress (a blue pantsuit with a sprinkle of sequence on it, accompanied by lashes, a bold lip and sleek ponytail) was more than likely a deliberate choice.
Whether you are as deliberate about how you present yourself or not, it is important to realise that you too are sending a message to those who come across you (online or in person). One way to ensure that you are conveying the right one is to style yourself in a way that is true to who you are.
#2 Brand story
Another thing that Ralph would have contemplated before she said a word is the topic of her talk. When you consider the positive impact that she made in 2022 by winning an Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy as a first-time nominee at the age of 66 (despite a 40 year acting career), it becomes immediately obvious why she settled upon “A 3-step Guide to Believing in Yourself”.
As she declared during her (Emmy) acceptance speech “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like”. In that moment her brand story became one of self-belief and it is that brand story that has led to increased opportunities such as her aforementioned Ted talk.
With this example in mind, it becomes clear that showing up authentically also means taking the trials and triumphs of your industry experience and sharing them in such a way that it captures your audience and causes them to take inspired action.
#3 Use of language
Apart from demonstrating how to leverage her brand story to reach a wider audience, Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Ted talk is a case study in the art of storytelling. As the old marketing adage goes, “facts tell; stories sell” so Ralph does not simply serve up the 3 steps to believing in yourself and walk off stage- she illustrates each point by telling relevant stories from her life.
One of the main ways that she does this is through the use of humour and colloquialisms such as “shooketh,” “check up from the neck up” and, at one point, employing a Jamaican accent. In so doing, she solidifies her authority, credibility and expertise in the subject matter and makes herself more relatable to her audience in the process.
What this demonstrates is that language can also be a unifying factor; so it’s important to punctuate your story with words that are authentic to you and will resonate with your ideal client as well.
#4 Unique Selling Point (USP)
Another thing that makes Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Ted Talk come alive is the way that she leverages her USP of being both an actress and singer. By using talents that come naturally to her, she is able to masterfully embody the characters and emotions that she describes within her stories and further impress her point(s) through song.
This also serves as a way to stand out from the sea of other speakers that have graced the Ted stage. Likewise, “if you don’t distinguish yourself from the crowd, you’ll just be in the crowd” (Rebecca Mark). In other words, it’s important not to conform to industry standards so much so that you fail to differentiate yourself from everyone else.
By doing this you will use “your value proposition [to] answer…the question: Why should I buy from you and not your competitor” (Neil Patel).
Since people will only do business with people that they know, like and trust, it is important to show up and represent your brand/business as authentically as possible.
This can be achieved in a number of ways including your personal style, stories and use of your innate gifts and talents (amongst other things).
It is my hope that this article will help you to implement this within your current visibility strategy.