He is so right. Credibility is vitally important goal and quality in businesses, particularly in an age where our customers and clients tend to be more sceptical and discerning than ever.
For many businesses, a goal as broad as this one can seem like a difficult one to implement, so here are 3 keys to ensuring your business is perceived as credible
1. Authenticity – are you real?
A crucial element of regaining trust and maintaining credibility is our perceived ‘human-ness’, according to neuroscientist and author of The Trust Factor, Paul Zak. Having spent years studying what builds intuitive trust between individuals, this is his remarkable yet simple finding. Appearing to be real, vulnerable and even fallible results in the release of the chemical oxytocin in the brains of others, which is what people have used for centuries to determine who was trustworthy.
This is an important revelation for every leader, professional or brand. For years we have worked hard to project sanitized and corporatized versions of ourselves. We have polished our messages until they shine in an effort to ensure our communication is on-brand. However, we’ve all witnessed these robotic presentations too, and while the words may sound great in press releases, from the podium they come across as wooden, insincere and trust-eroding.
This principle extends to every form and function of communication. For instance, it was once standard practice to write your LinkedIn profile in the formal, biographical tone of third person. According to social media branding strategist Kirryn Zerna, author of How to Stand Out Without Selling Out, this approach simply no longer resonates. Today, the profile pages and social posts of leaders and brands must be conversational, sincere, but above all, authentic.
Our clients, consumers and the marketplace can detect insincerity a mile away so as businesses and brands it is crucial that we dial up our authenticity and human-ness if we are to be seen as credible.
2. Veracity – are you honest/reliable?
According to legendary business leader Jack Welch, one of the most important elements for effective leaders today is ‘candor’ – a trait characterised by raw honesty. As Welch puts it, leaders with candor give their promises carefully and always keep them.
Truthfulness is the foundation of trust. Without honesty and sincerity, there is no hope of being seen as reliable, dependable and credible. However, in the age of online influence, simply being honest is not enough – the marketplace is also looking for social proof of your reliability.
For this reason, review sites and social media commentary are more important than ever. Research indicates that a full 82% of consumers will check reviews before placing their trust in a business, searching for the proof that it is true to its word. For this reason, it is critical that brands pay close attention to what is being said about them online. Many of my clients have founds tools like buzzhandle and mention.com valuable to this effect.
Trust takes time to build. While your honesty will be tested and integrity challenged from time to time, remember the words of celebrated American author and columnist Ann Landers: “People of integrity expect to be believed, and when they’re not, they let time prove them right.”
3. Transparency – are your values visible?
While operating with values and a sense of social responsibly is innately important, credibility in the eyes of today’s customer is only achieved when these things are clearly evident and verifiable.
Brands like Konica Minolta, Patagonia, Nike and Levi Strauss have worked hard to earn the trust of customers by being transparent around their supply chain practices. Others such as BHP Billiton, Repsol, LUSH and Vodafone have openly disclosed their corporate tax policies, practices and payments. Then there are businesses like Salesforce, Buffer and PepsiCo that have made public commitments to achieving pay equity.
In each of these cases, deliberate steps have been taken to make sure that implicit values are made explicit. For your brand or business, this doesn’t mean boasting about your own integrity, but it does mean ensuring that there is congruence between what you value and what you do. It means walking your talk and doing so in a deliberate, upfront and transparent way.
So what steps do you need to take to emphasise sincerity, vulnerability and human-ness on a day-to-day basis? How could you increase the visibility of your values through greater disclosure and transparency?
In order to gain or regain the trust of the marketplace today, your motivations need to be in the right place – you need to be integrous, reliable and dependable. Credibility, however, is only achieved when these motivations and the actions they result in are communicated clearly, authentically, openly and honestly.
And if you needed any further encouragement to pursue the path of honesty, consider the words of Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.
He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and has written 5 bestselling books. To order Michael's latest book "The Case for Character", click here.