May 30th, 2015 - Reputation

Be Authentic

I’m not a fan of the banquet. Or the cruise. Or even the traditional wedding. Ugh. In fact, my definition of hell might be sitting at a big round table, surrounded by strangers, and listening to speeches.

But as grown ups we are called upon to do things we aren’t crazy about doing. So a few weeks back, I put on some nice clothes and headed out to sit with strangers at a big round table.

Clearly I’m an introvert, but also an optimist, so I put on a smile, sat down with the strangers and attempted to make conversation, real conversation.

I had heard the gentleman to my right mention his 13-year-old daughter. Bingo! Since I’ve got one of those too, I figured immediate connection. Wrong.

He told me how his daughter was perfect. Fabulous grades, perfect clothing choices, never a moment of drama. And then he gave me a few parenting tips. “Just say NO.” “Offer guidance.” And other forgettable pablum.

Of course I didn’t buy it. Nor would anyone who has ever lived with a 13-year-old girl. There’s a reason why junior high teachers whisper the phrase ‘Grade 8 girls …’ They are afraid.

I love mine to death. She still calls me mommy, holds my hand, and tells me her secrets. But she (and all others her age) is pre-programmed by Mother Nature to have hormone-fuelled meltdowns at the drop of a hat.

So why couldn’t my round-table stranger open up and share an authentic story or two about life with a teenage daughter? What holds us back from real communication?

When we fail to open up, to tell real and honest stories, we fail. We lose trust and we lose our audiences.

When we are real, transparent, honest and, yes, authentic, our stories are more compelling. Our audiences want to listen and trust starts to build.

Trust is key to the survival of a friendship, a marriage, and a brand. That’s why I urge my clients to be authentic, to tell their stories in a personal and open way … share the fabulousness, the successes and the warts. This sharing builds trust. Trust builds loyalty.

With gratitude,

Shannon Larkins

Inspired by a little blackcoffee

Some of my favourite moments are spent in search of something beautiful while I drink my first cup of coffee and hear the house wake up. From there I move on to the paper and the news of the day. In this space, I’ll share some of those inspirations.

Now that's some good advice

Articles, snippets, or videos that highlight what to do and what not to do in the always changing world of branding and design. 

By Ritu Sharma @

' Our Curated Lives: The Insanity of Living Monotonously Happy, Perfect and Successful Lives '

At the end of the day, when you step away from your computer and phone, which posts from the day's romp across the social media landscape stick with you?

We all scroll through a wide variety of posts every time we refresh our social news feeds. The information that streams by ranges from upbeat to heart wrenching, enlightening to maddening. All facets of human life and emotion are laid bare daily by each and every one of us as we share our stories and the stories that move us. But which do you remember?


Shannon Larkins

Founder, Blackcoffee Studio

Over the course of 15+ years, Shannon has grown Blackcoffee Studio out of a love for building brands and reputations. She serves up Blackcoffee as a morning ritual while caffeinating clients and readers on the regular. You can find her at


Blackcoffee Studio

Blackcoffee is a premium brand development agency, offering luxury brand experience to clients at home in Calgary, Canada and around the globe. Brands create experience, set you apart from the competition and drive growth. Anyone can bulid a business but only the exceptional can create a brand. Are you ready?

Shannon Larkins

Shannon Larkins

Hi I’m Shannon, founder of Blackcoffee Studio. A former reporter, spin doctor and politico, I now focus on using my powers for good.

I create mighty brands for clients and share their stories with the world. I’m also rather addicted to my nutty family, dogs with pushed in faces, Mexico and of course coffee … black.