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Establishing credibility: Why and how to do it

A common reputational goal we set for clients is to establish them and their business as thought leaders in their field, so that the public (and the media) identify them as knowledgeable and the ‘go-to’ for a particular topic, subject or business area.

We always say this can’t happen overnight; it takes months and more often years of sustained effort to position a business as an eminent voice.

To do so, businesses need to establish credibility, defined as the quality of being believable or worthy of trust.

Achieving credibility can be done by the organisation itself, but it really requires the involvement of third-party opinions and backing. After all, what is more believable – a business tooting its own horn, or a story on the organisation from a reputable source (such as the media, their customers or partners in business)?

Let’s discuss some top ways to build your business’ trustworthiness:

The media

Key channels for any comms person are the various media outlets, be it print, broadcast or digital. Why? Because they have the audience and they have their trust. When you read an article on Stuff, you trust that the journalists have done their research and applied rigour to whatever they may be writing. In fact, an AUT report published earlier this year showed that 53% of New Zealanders trust the news most of the time.

As we always say when working with the media, this channel will only work to establish credibility if you have a story to tell. More than likely you do, so it’s about crafting the story so it has a strong angle that will appeal to the media gatekeepers.

The dream situation is when you have the media coming to you for comment; this is what can take years to establish. If you’re a honey company and a journalist is doing a story on the effects of Covid-19 on the industry, you want that journalist coming to you. That’s when you’ll know they see you as a credible and leading entity.

Your customers

If you offer an outstanding product or service, surely your customers should be your biggest advocates. Now, I know a lot of companies might have experiences that seem otherwise, but on the whole this should be true (or I don’t know how you’re in business!).

The key benefit of using customers in your communications is that they have first-hand experience of your business, and likely have similar characteristics to your potential future customers. People like to hear from others like themselves – if I see an older man dressed for the beef farm spouting how amazing a vegan handbag is, I would question whether the handbag is really one I want or should buy (and might just be generally confused!).

A great way to get customer endorsement is through testimonials, so others can read about their experience of the product or service. A testimonial is one of the most important pieces of copy you can put on your website, social media or any other marketing communication. It shows customers that someone else has tried this, and liked it, reassuring them that your product is tested and a safe investment.

When you’ve found customers happy to provide a testimonial, follow this formula; the before stage, when the customer has an issue or problem, the after stage sharing the results and the overall experience; how did they feel after interacting with the business.

This isn’t only for those looking for sales; it’s a great way for charities to show the work they are doing, to get much-needed donations.

Even better than a written testimonial? Get visual with it and make video content of customers using your product or service. This can be far more engaging for those you’re trying to reach, and works well in digital advertising.

It’s about show and tell

Using either of these two groups can establish your business credibility, but something you can do through your own channels is SHOW rather than TELL.

It’s important to get your key messages out there through outlets you control, but at some point it can lead to overload. Guide your audience to the same conclusions by showing them your key messages, through examples, proof of efficacy or educational content.

Provide the evidence

It’s something you learn at school; you can’t make a statement without having the evidence to back it up. You can say that your vitamin range will prevent aches and pains, but you need statistics to sit behind that charge.

If its research, it should be conducted by an independent entity, or if it’s a survey it should have a wide enough sample so it is an accurate representation of a particular population.

People respond to stats, and if you’re writing a media release or statement the journalist will need the evidence for their story – they can’t just say that 50% of New Zealanders love camembert cheese.

As we said earlier, establishing credibility and becoming a leading voice takes time. Get in touch with us now to get your 2021 comms planning underway, and start building your thought leadership for the future.