In 1939, The Wizard of Oz brilliantly introduced us to “the man behind the curtain,” previously feared by Dorothy and her sidekicks as “the Great and Powerful Oz.” But once the curtain had been pulled back, the startled travelers courageously confronted what they had previously feared.

In case you missed the memo, the curtain has been pulled. Today’s consumers are educated. They know about Photoshopped supermodels and they’ve poured over YouTube videos revealing how ahamburger is made to look good on camera.

In a business world that still hangs on to smokescreen and mirrors, simply being authentic can give you a huge competitive advantage. Today’s consumers appreciate the breath of fresh air because they no longer have to guess about who you are. In fact, a recent survey by Cohn & Wolfe revealed that the number one behavior your customer wants from you is that you communicate honestly about your products and services. When given the choice, 63 percent of customers prefer authentic brands.

  1. Manage your Reputation

What’s worse than a negative review? A negative review without a reply. Nobody expects you to be perfect. But they do expect you to respond or you are presumed guilty. Today, your brand is now in the hands of your customer to a greater degree than you may know.

The best thing you can do is avoid situations from arising in the first place by being proactive. Focus a portion of your marketing efforts into an offensive effort to garner positive reviews and client testimonials. They’re the DNA that drives consumer decision. Make your clients happy to do business with you and then find creative ways to motivate them to sing your praises from the rooftops.

Catch negative experiences early on before they fester by sending follow up surveys and making calls to your customers after a sale.

Before your brand gets smacked up the side of the head from SkarrFace2370, you need to have a system in place so you find out as soon as it happens. Working with a good, external PR team, setting up Google alerts and regularly scouring your social media feeds can help. Do some digging to find out how much truth is in there. Eat a piece of humble pie if you must but be honest with yourself. If there’s a problem, own it, fix it and make it right. Just like your parents taught when you were in grade school.

  1. Implement a Video Strategy

Your customers want to hear from you through video. In a recent HubSpot survey, over 3,000 consumers were asked their preference among a variety of content options: downloads, blogs, videos, images and newsletters. Overwhelmingly, 54 percent of the consumerschose videos as their preferred method of consuming your content.

Video is the perfect medium for building authenticity. It allows you to portray your authentic brand self because you cannot hide behind Photoshop polish, special effects and carefully crafted copy.

Live streaming takes video to an even deeper level. It’s is the most raw, unadulterated form of content delivery. Think about it, you cannot edit mess-ups. No touching up, re-scripting or adjusting of anything. It forces you into the hot seat of authenticity. Which is exactly why most companies are not doing it. Video is also easier to digest and taps into multiple senses simultaneously.

Even more, video is less expensive and easier to produce than ever before. Just $200 worth of accessories can turn your smart phone into a small production setup. Whether you’re an agency or an in-house creative team (I know a great agency in Phoenix J), integrate a video strategy, automate where you can and execute your content strategy consistently.

  1. Automate with Caution

Robots have their place in the world. Automation can increase your bottom line and systems and processes in the right places are beautiful. But fence them out of your brand. Your brand is a living, breathing organism with a heartbeat. And your customers want to feel it. There is no automating that.

Whether you’re a Phoenix-based startup or part of a 500-staff company worth $1 billion, your company is made up of your people. Your product is much further down the chain.

Your brand is the most valuable asset your company owns. Since everyone with a smart phone is now a global reporter, assume something somewhere is going to go wrong and will be captured and posted on every social channel known to mankind. Be ready by making a game plan with your team in advance.

Bottom line: don’t be afraid to be real. Real companies respond when a customer asks. Real companies apologize when they mess up. Real companies talk to their customers rather than using pre-programmed, scripted responses.

Press 5 if you agree.