The Untapped Energy of Vulnerability & Transparency in Content material Technique – A Listing Aside

In advertising, transparency and vulnerability are unjustly stigmatized. The phrases conjure illusions of being frightened, imperfect, and powerless. And for firms that shove fastidiously curated personas in entrance of customers, little is extra terrifying than shedding management of how individuals understand the model.

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Let’s shatter this illusioned stigma. Genuine vulnerability and transparency are strengths masquerading as weaknesses. And firms too scared to embrace each traits of their content material forfeit bona fide user-brand connections for sometimes shallow, deceptive engagement techniques that create fleeting relationships.

Transparency and vulnerability are intently entwined ideas, however every one engages customers in a singular manner. Transparency is how a lot data you share, whereas vulnerability is the reality and that means behind your actions and phrases. Combining these concepts is the trick to creating empowering and significant content material. You possibly can’t inform true tales of vulnerability with out transparency, and to be authentically clear you should be weak.

To be weak, your model and its content material should be courageous, real, humble, and open, all of that are traits that promote long-term buyer loyalty. And when you’re clear with customers about who you might be and about your enterprise practices, you’re courting 94 % of shoppers who say they’re extra loyal to manufacturers that provide full openness and 89 % of people that say they provide clear firms a second probability after a foul expertise.

For a lot of firms, being utterly trustworthy and open with their prospects—or staff, in some circumstances—solely occurs in a disaster. Sadly for these companies, utilizing vulnerability and transparency solely as a disaster administration technique diminishes how honest they seem and may scale back buyer satisfaction.

Unlocking the potential of being clear and weak with customers isn’t a one-off tactic or quick-fix emergency response device—it’s a dedication to intimate storytelling that embraces a person’s emotional and psychological wants, which builds a significant connection between the storyteller and the viewers.

The three storytelling pillars of weak and clear content material#section2

In her guide, Braving the Wilderness, sociologist Brené Brown explains that vulnerability connects us at an emotional stage. She says that once we acknowledge somebody is being weak, we spend money on their story and start to develop an emotional bond. This interwoven connection encourages us to expertise the storyteller’s pleasure and ache, after which creates a way of group and customary goal among the many particular person being weak and the individuals who acknowledge that vulnerability.

Three pillars in an organization’s lifecycle embrace this bond and supply a top level view for telling tales worthy of a person’s emotional funding. The pillars are:

  • the origins of an organization, product, thought, or state of affairs;
  • intimate narratives about prospects’ life experiences;
  • and insights about product success and failure.

Origin tales#section3

An origin story spins a clear story about how an organization, product, service, or thought is created. It’s usually instructed by a founder, CEO, or trade innovator. This pillar is often used as an genuine manner to supply disaster administration or as a way to alter how customers really feel a few subject, product, or your model.

Clients’ life experiences#section4

Whereas weak origin tales do a wonderful job of constructing customers belief your model, telling a buyer’s private life story is arguably the best manner to make use of vulnerability to entwine a model with somebody’s private identification.

Not like an origin story, the shopper experiences pillar is concentrated on being clear about who your prospects are, what they’ve skilled, and the way these journeys align with values that matter to your model. By way of this lens, you’ll empower your prospects to inform emotional, significant tales that make customers really feel weak in a constructive manner. On this state of affairs, your model is usually a storytelling platform the place customers share their story with the model and fellow prospects.

Product and repair insights#section5

Origin tales make your model reliable in a disaster, and prospects’ private tales assist customers really feel an intimate connection together with your model’s persona and mission. The final pillar, product and repair insights, combines the psychological ideas that make origin and buyer tales profitable. The end result is a weak narrative that rallies customers’ pleasure about, and emotional funding in, what an organization sells or the objectives it hopes to attain.

Vulnerability, transparency, and the shopper journey#section6

The three storytelling pillars are essential to embracing transparency and vulnerability in your content material technique as a result of they allow you to goal customers at particular factors of their journey. By embedding the pillars in every stage of the shopper’s journey, you educate customers about who you might be, what issues to you, and why they need to care.

For our functions, let’s outline the person journey as:

  • consciousness;
  • curiosity;
  • consideration;
  • conversion;
  • and retention.


Folks give one another seven seconds to make an excellent first impression. We’re not so beneficiant with manufacturers and web sites. After discovering your content material, customers decide if it’s reliable inside one-tenth of a second.

Web page design and aesthetics are sometimes the figuring out elements in these split-second decisions, however the data customers uncover after that call shapes their long-term opinions about your model. This snap judgement is why transparency and vulnerability are essential inside consciousness content material.

While you solely get one probability to make a constructive first impression together with your viewers, what content material goes to be extra memorable?

Typical advertising “fluff” about how your model was constructed on a shared imaginative and prescient and dedication to unyielding buyer satisfaction and high quality merchandise? Or an upfront, genuine, and trustworthy story in regards to the trials and tribulations you went via to get the place you at the moment are?

Buffer, a social media administration firm that helped pioneer the radical transparency motion, selected the latter possibility. The end result created consciousness content material that leaves a constructive lasting impression of the model.

In 2016, Joel Gascoigne, cofounder and CEO of Buffer, used an origin story to debate the errors he and his firm made that resulted in shedding 10 staff.

Within the weblog put up “Robust Information: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs. How We Obtained Right here, the Monetary Particulars and How We’re Shifting Ahead,” Gascoigne wrote about Buffer’s over-aggressive progress decisions, lack of accountability, misplaced belief in its monetary mannequin, express danger urge for food, and overenthusiastic hiring. He additionally mentioned what he realized from the expertise, the adjustments Buffer made based mostly on these classes, the results of these adjustments, and subsequent steps for the model.

Gascoigne writes about every topic with radical honesty and authenticity. All through the article, he’s personable and relatable; his tone and voice make it apparent he’s extra involved in regards to the lives he’s irrevocably affected than the general public picture of his firm floundering. As a result of Gascoigne is so clear and weak within the weblog put up, it’s straightforward to grow to be invested within the narrative he’s telling. The result’s an article that feels extra like a deep, significant dialog over espresso as a substitute of a fastidiously curated, PR-approved response.

Sure, Buffer used this origin story to confront a PR disaster, however they did so in a manner that inspired customers to belief the model. Buffer selected to point out up and be seen once they had no management over the result. And since Gascoigne used vulnerability and transparency to share the corporate’s collective ache, the corporate reaped constructive press protection and help on social media—additional bettering model consciousness, person engagement, and buyer loyalty.

Nevertheless, consciousness content material isn’t all the time model centered. Generally, sensible consciousness content material makes use of storytelling to show customers and form their worldviews. The 2019 State of Science Index is a wonderful instance.

The annual State of Science Index evaluates how the worldwide public perceives science. The 2019 report exhibits that 87 % of individuals acknowledge that science is important to unravel the world’s issues, however 33 % are skeptical of science and consider that scientists trigger as many issues as they remedy. Moreover, 57 % of respondents are skeptical of science due to scientists’ conflicting opinions about subjects they don’t perceive.

3M, the multinational science conglomerate that publishes the report, says the answer for this anti-science mindset is to advertise intimate storytelling amongst scientists and layfolk.

3M creates an origin story with its consciousness content material by specializing in the ins and outs of scientific analysis. The corporate is open and easy with its knowledge and intentions, eliminating any second guesses customers might need in regards to the content material they’re digesting.

The corporate kicked off this technique on three fronts, and every storytelling medium interweaves the advantages of vulnerability and transparency by encouraging researchers to inform tales that lead with how their findings profit humanity. Each story 3M tells focuses on breaking via limitations the common particular person faces once they encounter science and inspiring scientists to be weak and genuine with how they share their analysis.

First, 3M started a podcast collection referred to as Science Champions. Within the podcast, 3M Chief Science Advocate Jayshree Seth interviews scientists and educators in regards to the world notion of science and the way science and scientists have an effect on our lives. The present is at present in its second season and discusses a variety of subjects in science, expertise, engineering, and math.

Second, the corporate labored with science educators, journalist Katie Couric, actor Alan Alda, and former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly to develop the free Scientists as Storytellers Information. The e-book helps STEM researchers enhance how and why they impart their work with different individuals—with a particular emphasis on being empathetic with non-scientists. The information breaks down tips on how to develop communications expertise, overcome frequent storytelling challenges, and be taught to make science extra accessible, comprehensible, and fascinating for others.

Final, 3M created a movie collection known as Past the Beaker that explores the day-to-day lives of 3M scientists. Within the brief movies, scientists give the viewer a glimpse into their hobbies and residential life. The collection showcases how scientists have numerous backgrounds, hobbies, objectives, and desires.

Not like Buffer, which advantages instantly from its consciousness content material, 3M’s three content material mediums are designed to create a long-term technique that adjustments how individuals perceive and understand science, by spreading consciousness via third events. It’s too early to conclude that the technique might be profitable, but it surely’s off to an excellent begin. Science Champions usually tops “better of” podcast lists for science lovers, and the Scientists as Storytellers Information is a well-liked useful resource amongst public universities.


How do you courtroom new customers when word-of-mouth and natural search dominate how individuals uncover new manufacturers? Goal their pursuits.

Now, you could be just like the lots of of different manufacturers that create a “10 finest issues” record and hope individuals stumble onto your content material organically and like what they see. Or, you need to use content material to have interaction with people who find themselves enthusiastic about your trade and have real, open discussions in regards to the subjects that matter to you each.

The latter possibility is an ideal match for the product and repair insights pillar, and the shoppers’ life experiences pillar.

To achieve these pillars it’s essential to stability discussing the customers’ passions and the way your model performs into that subject towards showing disingenuous or turning into too self-promotional.

Nonprofits have a better time strolling this taut line as a result of persons are much less judgemental when participating with NGOs, but it surely’s uncommon for a for-profit firm to attain this stability. SpaceX and Thinx are among the many few manufacturers which might be capable of stroll this tightrope.

Thinx, a ladies’s clothes model that sells period-proof underwear, makes use of its weblog to generate consciousness, curiosity, and consideration content material through the shoppers’ life experiences pillar. The weblog, aptly named Periodical, depends on transparency and vulnerability as a cornerstone to have interaction customers about reproductive and psychological well being.

Toni Brannagan, Thinx’s content material editor, says the model embraces transparency and vulnerability by sharing numerous concepts and private experiences from prospects and consultants alike, not shying away from delicate topics and by no means deceptive customers about Thinx or the themes Periodical discusses.

As an organization centered on ladies’s healthcare, the product Thinx sells is political by nature and entangles the model with themes of disgrace, cultural variations, and private empowerment. Thinx’s technique is to deal with these topics head-on by having weak conversations in its branding, social media advertisements, and Periodical content material.

“Vulnerability and transparency play a task as a result of you may’t share genuine numerous concepts and experiences about these issues—disgrace, cultural variations, and empowerment—with out it,” Brannagan says.

A good portion of Thinx’s web site site visitors is natural, which suggests Periodical’s interest-driven content material could also be a person’s first touchpoint with the model.

“We’ve seen that our most profitable natural content material is instructional, well-researched articles, and likewise product-focused blogs that reply the questions on our underwear, in a manner that’s just a little extra informal than what’s on our product pages,” Brannagan says. “In distinction, our private essays and ‘extra opinionated’ content material performs higher on social media and e-mail.”

Thanks partly to the weblog’s authenticity and open discussions about hard-hitting subjects, readers who discover the model via natural search drive probably the most direct conversions.

Conversations with customers within the trade or subject your organization is concerned in don’t all the time have to come back from the corporate itself. Generally a single particular person can drive genuine, open conversations and create endearing person loyalty and engagement.

For a corporation that depends on enterprise capital investments, NASA funding, and public opinion for its monetary future, crossing the road between being too self-promotional and isolating customers may spell doom. However SpaceX has by no means shied away from tough or weak conversations. As an alternative, the corporate’s founder, Elon Musk, embraces participating with customers pursuits in public boards like Twitter and press conferences.

Twitter thread showing an exchange between Elon Musk and a user

Musk’s tweets about SpaceX are unwaveringly genuine and clear. He usually tweets about his ideas, issues, and the challenges his firms face. Plus, Musk ceaselessly engages along with his Twitter followers and supplies candid solutions to questions many CEOs keep away from discussing. This authenticity has earned him a cult-like following.

Elon Musk gives an honest, if not flattering, response on Twitter to a user

Musk and SpaceX create conversations that concentrate on individuals’s pursuits and use vulnerability to equally embrace failure and success. Each the corporate and its founder give the general public and traders an unflinching story of house exploration.

And regardless of shedding 10 % of its workforce in January of 2019, SpaceX is flourishing. In Might 2019, its valuation had risen to $33.3 billion and reported annual income exceeded $2 billion. It additionally earned world media protection from launching Musk’s Tesla Roadster into house, lately accomplished a take a look at flight of its Crew Dragon house automobile, and cemented a number of new payload contracts.

By participating with customers on social media and thru normal storytelling mediums, Thinx and SpaceX bolster buyer loyalty and model engagement.


Trendy shoppers argue that ignorance shouldn’t be bliss. When customers are contemplating changing with a model, 86 % of shoppers say transparency is a deciding issue. Transparency stays essential even after they convert, with 85 % of customers saying they’ll help a clear model throughout a PR disaster.

Your model should be open, clear, and trustworthy with customers; there isn’t a longer one other viable possibility.

So how do you stay clear whereas attempting to promote somebody a product? One answer employed by REI and Everlane is to be brazenly accountable to your model and your customers through the origin tales and product insights pillars.

REI, a nationwide out of doors tools retailer, created a stewardship program that behaves as a multifaceted origin story. This system’s content material highlights the corporate’s historical past and manufacturing insurance policies, and it lets customers dive into the nitty-gritty particulars about its factories, partnerships, product manufacturing strategies, manufacturing ethics, and carbon footprint.

Screenshot of the Collaborating for Good website

REI additionally employs a traditional content material hub technique to let prospects discover this system and discover its related data. From a single touchdown web page, customers can simply discover this system via the web site’s world navigation after which navigate to each tangential subject this system encompasses.

REI additionally publishes an annual stewardship report, the place customers can be taught intimate particulars about how the corporate makes and spends its cash.

Screenshot of REI's stewardship report

Everlane, a clothes firm, is equally clear about its provide chain. The corporate promotes an insider’s look into its world factories through product insights tales. These glimpses inform the private narratives of manufacturing facility staff and house owners, and supply insights into the merchandise manufactured and the supplies used. Everlane additionally revealed particulars of how they adjust to the California Transparency in Provide Chains Act to ensure moral working situations all through its provide chain, together with refusing to companion with human traffickers.

Screenshot of Everlane's page about the factory in Lima

The essential high quality that Everlane and REI share is that they publicize their transparency and encourage customers to discover the shared data. On every web site, customers can simply discover details about the corporate’s transparency endeavors through the worldwide navigation, social media campaigns, and product pages.

The patron response to clear manufacturers like REI and Everlane is overwhelmingly constructive. Clients are prepared to pay worth premiums for the extra transparency, which supplies them consolation by realizing they’re buying moral merchandise.

REI’s possession mannequin has additional propelled the success of its transparency by utilizing it to create unwavering buyer engagement and loyalty. As a co-op the place prospects can “personal” a part of the corporate for a one-time $20 membership price, REI is beholden to its members, lots of which pay shut consideration to its provide chain and the manufacturers REI companions with.

After a lethal faculty taking pictures in Parkland, Florida, REI members urged the corporate to refuse to hold CamelBak merchandise as a result of the model’s dad or mum firm manufactures assault-style weapons. Members argued the partnership violated REI’s provide chain ethics. REI listened and halted orders with CamelBak. Members rejoiced and REI earned a major quantity of constructive press protection.


Think about you’ve began incorporating transparency all through your organization, and promote the outcomes to customers. Your model additionally begins participating customers by telling weak, significant tales through the three pillars. You’re seeing nice engagement metrics and buyer suggestions from these efforts, however not a lot else. So, how do you get your newly invested customers to transform?

Present customers with a full-circle expertise.

If you happen to mix the three storytelling pillars with blatant transparency and actively promote your efforts, customers usually transition from the consideration stage into the conversion state. Better of all, when customers convert with an organization that already earned their belief on an emotional stage, they’re extra more likely to stay loyal to the model and emotionally invested in its future.

The essential step in combining the three pillars is consistency. Your model’s tales should all the time be genuine and your content material should all the time be clear. The out of doors clothes model Patagonia is among the many hottest and profitable firms to take care of this consistency and excel with this technique.

Patagonia is arguably probably the most vocal and aggressive clothes retailer on the subject of environmental stewardship and moral manufacturing.

In some circumstances, the corporate tells customers to not purchase its clothes as a result of rampant consumerism harms the surroundings an excessive amount of, which they care about greater than earnings. This stage of radical transparency and vulnerability skyrocketed the corporate’s reputation amongst environmentally-conscious shoppers.

In 2011, Patagonia took out a full-page Black Friday advert within the New York Occasions with the headline “Don’t Purchase This Jacket.” Within the advert, Patagonia talks in regards to the environmental toll manufacturing garments requires.

“Contemplate the R2 Jacket proven, one in all our greatest sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, sufficient to satisfy the every day wants (three glasses a day) of 45 individuals. Its journey from its origin as 60 % recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated practically 20 kilos of carbon dioxide, 24 instances the burden of the completed product. This jacket left behind, on its approach to Reno, two-thirds [of] its weight in waste.”

The advert encourages customers to not purchase any new Patagonia clothes if their outdated, ratty garments could be repaired. To assist, Patagonia launched a supplementary subdomain to its e-commerce web site to help its Widespread Thread Initiative, which finally obtained rebranded because the Worn Put on program.

Patatgonia’s Worn Put on subdomain will get customers to have interaction with the corporate about causes every occasion cares about. By way of Worn Put on, Patagonia will restore your outdated gear totally free. If you happen to’d moderately have new gear, you may as a substitute promote the worn out clothes to Patagonia, and so they’ll restore it after which resell the product at a reduction. This interplay encourages loyalty and repeat brand-user engagement.

As well as, the navigation on Patagonia’s predominant web site virtually begs customers to be taught in regards to the model’s non-profit initiatives and its dedication to moral manufacturing.

Screenshot of Patagonia's page on environmental responsibility

Right now, Patagonia is among the many most revered, worthwhile, and trusted shopper manufacturers in the US.


Content material technique expands via practically each facet of the advertising stack, together with advert campaigns, which take a extra managed method to vulnerability and transparency. To focus on customers within the retention stage and maintain them invested in your model, your aim is to create content material utilizing the shoppers’ life experiences pillar to amplify the emotional bond and model loyalty that vulnerability creates.

All the time took this method and ended up with one in all its most profitable social media campaigns.

An Always ad portraying a determined girl holding a baseball

In June 2014, All the time launched its #LikeAGirl marketing campaign to empower adolescent and teenage ladies by reworking the phrase “like a woman” from a slur right into a significant and constructive assertion.

The marketing campaign is centered on a video during which All the time tasked kids, youngsters, and adults to behave “like a woman” by operating, punching, and throwing whereas mimicking their notion of how a woman performs the exercise. Younger ladies carried out the duties wholeheartedly and with gusto, whereas boys and adults carried out overly female and useless characterizations. The director then challenged the particular person on their portrayal, breaking down what doing issues “like a woman” actually means. The video ends with a strong, heart-swelling assertion:

“If someone else says that operating like a woman, or kicking like a woman, or taking pictures like a woman is one thing you shouldn’t be doing, that’s their downside. As a result of when you’re nonetheless scoring, and also you’re nonetheless attending to the ball in time, and also you’re nonetheless being first…you’re doing it proper. It doesn’t matter what they are saying.”

This buyer story marketing campaign put the vulnerability ladies really feel throughout puberty entrance and middle so the subject would resonate with customers and provides the model a strong, related, and purposeful position on this connection, based on an Institute for Public Relations marketing campaign evaluation.

Consequently, the #LikeAGirl marketing campaign was a rousing success and blew previous the KPIs All the time established. Initially, All the time decided an “impactful launch” for the video meant 2 million video views and 250 million media impressions, the evaluation states.

5 years later, the marketing campaign video has greater than 66.9 million views and 42,700 feedback on YouTube, with greater than 85 % of customers reacting positively. Listed below are just a few further highlights the evaluation doc factors out:

  • Eighty-one % of girls ages 16–24 help All the time in making a motion to reclaim “like a woman” as a constructive and galvanizing assertion.
  • Greater than 1 million individuals shared the video.
  • 13 % of customers created user-generated content material in regards to the marketing campaign.
  • The #LikeAGirl program achieved 4.5 billion world impressions.
  • The marketing campaign acquired 290 million social impressions, with 133,000 social mentions, and it triggered a 195.3 % enhance within the model’s Twitter followers.

Among the many causes the #LikeAGirl content material was so profitable is that it aligned with Brené Brown’s idea that experiencing vulnerability creates a connection centered on highly effective, shared feelings. All the time then amplified the marketing campaign’s effectiveness by utilizing these feelings to encourage particular person conduct on social media.

How are you aware when you’re making weak content material?#section12

Designing a vulnerability-focused content material technique marketing campaign begins by figuring out what sort of story you need to inform, why you need to inform it, why that story issues, and the way that story helps you or your customers obtain a aim.

While you’re brainstorming subjects, an important issue is that you should care in regards to the tales you’re telling. These tales should be significant as a result of when you’re weaving a story that isn’t necessary to you, it exhibits. And finally, why do you anticipate your customers to care a few topic when you don’t?

Let’s say you’re creating a content material marketing campaign for a nonprofit, and also you need to use your model’s emotional identification to attach with customers. You have got a handful of attainable narratives however you’re unsure which one will finest unlock the advantages of vulnerability. In a Medium put up about telling weak tales, Cayla Vidmar presents a listing of seven self-reflective questions that may reveal what narrative to decide on and why.

If you happen to can reply every of Vidmar’s questions, you’re in your approach to creating a fantastic story that may join with customers on a stage unequalled by different strategies. Right here’s what it is best to ask your self:

  • What that means is there in my story?
  • Can my story assist others?
  • How can it assist others?
  • Am I prepared to battle and be weak in that battle (even with strangers)?
  • How has my story formed my worldview (what has it made me consider)?
  • What good have I realized from my story?
  • If different individuals found this good from their story, would it not change their lives?

Whilst you’re creating narratives throughout the three pillars, refer again to Vidmar’s record to take care of the right stability between vulnerability and transparency.

You now know that vulnerability and transparency are an infinite fountain of power, not a weak spot. Susceptible content material received’t make you or your model look weak. Your prospects received’t flee on the sight of imperfection. Being human and treating your customers like people isn’t a legal responsibility.

It’s time in your model to embrace its untapped potential. Select to be weak, have the braveness to inform significant tales about what issues most to your organization and your prospects, and overcome the worry of controlling how customers will react to your content material.

Origin story

Each origin story has six chapters:

  • the invention of an issue or alternative;
  • what triggered this downside or alternative;
  • the results of this discovery;
  • the answer to those penalties;
  • classes realized throughout the course of;
  • and subsequent steps.

Clients’ life experiences

Each buyer journey narrative has six chapters:

  • plot background to border the shopper’s experiences;
  • the shopper’s journey;
  • how the model performs into that journey (if relevant);
  • how the shopper’s experiences modified them;
  • what the shopper realized from this journey;
  • and the way different individuals can use this data to enhance their lives.

Product and repair insights

Narratives about product and repair insights have seven chapters:

  • an outline of the product/service;
  • how that product/service impacts customers;
  • why the product/service is necessary to the model’s mission or to customers;
  • what about this product/service failed or succeeded;
  • why did that success or failure occur;
  • what classes did this situation create;
  • and the way are the model and its customers shifting ahead.

You have got the instruments and information essential to be clear, create weak content material, and succeed. And we have to inform weak tales as a result of sharing our experiences and embracing our frequent connections issues. So go forward, put your self out into the open, and see how your prospects reply.

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