The King of Pop is dead. OK, I admit it. I was never a fan. I'm not a fan of pop music in general. And like Farrah Fawcett, another pop culture icon who also died last week, Michael Jackson and his music seemed too slick, too artificial, too produced for my taste. Not phony exactly, just too made up, too commercial, and too manufactured.

In pop culture, fame and fortune are destinations we aspire to. But when it comes to the way we want people or businesses or politicians to communicate, we prefer it to be authentic. It's like the difference between acoustic and electric music. They are both good, but acoustic music is more authentic because it sounds the way a wooden instrument was built to sound. It is not distorted by effects or electronics, or forced through speakers. It is as real as it gets.

Authentic communication is one reason why social media is so powerful. It is raw, uncensored, personal and emotional. We demand authentic communication from our political leaders, and when they deliver, we support them in a way that is also authentic because they connect with us on a level we can accept without skepticism. We don't always agree with them on everything, but we accept the fact that they are not just blowing smoke.

Organizations that communicate authentically are better positioned to build long-term brand loyalty. Healthcare organizations can reach more patients, and nonprofits can serve more constituents, if they earn the trust of the community. Corporations can protect their reputation and retain their customers even when hard times force them to make difficult decisions. Even if tuition goes up, students will want to attend a university that communicates authentically about the challenges that lie ahead.

Farrah and the King of Pop found out that fame can be fleeting and fans can be fickle, even for pop culture icons. But if we make the commitment to communicate authentically, the chances are good - knock on wood - that we will reap real and long lasting rewards.

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