The ad said ‘Wanted: A Concept Creator & Storyteller who likes to be seen and heard.’
It might as well have said ‘Wanted: Louisa Leontiades’
…or rather Louisa (No Leontiades).
‘Your email will be firstname.lastname@[companyname].se’ said the IT guy.
‘Ah so Louisa.Leontiades@[companyname].se?’ I said.
There was a long pause.
‘I think we’ll just go for Louisa@[companyname].se then…’he said thoughtfully. ‘No one will learn your second name.’
It was the perfect job it seemed. Writing for a living mostly remotely, and around my kids.
The new company works in corporate communications. What they mean by that is advertising. They work with the big brands… the really big brands; IKEA, Volvo and Ericsson (well the big Swedish brands at any rate).
In a week that’s seen my son walk for the first time, the 100k cycle race and my birthday piss-up (carefully planned for lunch time so that the ensuing hangover wasn’t too bad the next day – is that what they call responsible parenthood?), the first week on my new dropped-from-heaven job took less space than it might have done otherwise. Writing for a living. The left side of my brain balanced with the right side which was still contracting as a financial modeller (yes, my love affair with Excel just won’t quit).
Perfect. But whatever.
And through a bewildering re-introduction into corporate life and timetabled hours, I tried very hard to remember that I had committed my life to being compassionately honest.
Is there Honesty in advertising?
‘We don’t lie. Absolutely not.’ said the VP of my new company. ‘But we do paint with strong colours.’
Strong colours is good. Strong colours don’t take any crap. Strong colours are in your face…and honest (sometimes brutally so).
‘So you’re the one who’s going to write the corporate BS’ said my friend when she heard about my new job.
‘Never.’ I said confidently. ‘The power of my writing is in truth.’
But my confidence masked a grain of fear.
A lot of my job is to write content to evoke certain emotions. Those emotions need to be aligned with the brand. To contribute towards the brand. To personalize the brand. But is that honest? How can I be sure that the copy I’m writing conveys the truth of the brand?
Honest brands have Power
The best brands are about honesty. The truth is that with the democratic power of social media, corporate communications can only be successful if customer experience supports it. The integrity of brand is assured only if what a company consistently does, matches what they consistently say (or indeed, what I say on their behalf).
In reality most brands don’t know who they are (since a brand is a entity unto itself), and therefore what they say doesn’t match. Getting to know and define themselves, is one of the most difficult and rewarding processes a brand can go through. Aligment with corporate values for any business is difficult in today’s cut throat cost competitive market. And I know of few that walk the walk.
The Truth About Lying
Your integrity is compromised if at any time you do anything that is not aligned with your core values. It doesn’t matter whether you are being paid for it (and in a sense, it makes it even worse). The truth is that honesty, is purely about self-interest.
If you lie – even on behalf of others – then you reinforce the self-belief that you and your voice are fundamentally not good enough. That your voice isn’t worthy of being heard. That you are unlovable, unacceptable and unemployable if you act with integrity and tell the truth. And just like a brand, without being true to yourself, you have no direction and no basis for progress. You become someone other than the person you are.
If you have a job where you actively lie TO others be it the general public through advertising, the shareholders through creative accounting or your IT department about their Christmas bonus, it robs all those you tell of their ability to make a free and informed choice. It violates their consent (Lying and Ethics, Mazur, Santa Clara University). And yes, you are directly and personally responsible for this.
So I have chosen to tell the truth; to be the truth, even at the expense of my career, because anything else impacts me, my circle and my world with more negativity than I care to inflict; I worked in [companyname] for a month before they and I realized, that I was too honest to bullshit for them. Now I’m back to freelancing and only ever accept jobs for brands I believe in; usually small time solopreneurs waging a war for a cause they believe in.
“I often warn people: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’
What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.”
— George Carlin
It means less money, and yet unsurprisingly… it is infinitely more rewarding.