Capitalizing on credibility: What’s the biggest payoff?
By Michael Lovas
The number one credibility-builder is clearly a book. Why? For many compelling reasons, but let’s look at three of the most compelling:
1. Implied credibility
Until recent years, getting into print was a much more painful ordeal than it is today. Merely writing a book was a long and laborious process. Then, the act of finding an agent or publisher was, itself, long and painful. The effort involved kept many good ideas from being written. That vetting process establish a perceived level of credibility; the belief that only the best ideas and manuscripts were published. That perception remains today, even though the process has changed dramatically.
It’s one thing to express an opinion or post an idea in a blog, and quite another to write a book about it. A book has permanence. You’re forced to put a stake in the ground and make a commitment. Doing that also places your credibility at risk if your idea is not sound or your research is lacking. What you say in a book goes “out there” and cannot be easily retrieved or changed. We still hear from people years after publishing our first book. They believe that the ideas in the book are permanent. If you’re not willing to take that strong of a stand, then a book is not the right medium for you.
If faith is the is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, a book is the opposite. It is proof. The most compelling proof is the tangibility. It is a solid object in the physical world. You can touch it. It has weight and texture. You can’t deny its existence.
Along with that tangibility come deeper perceptions. The weight and texture of the physical book carry their own messages. For example, compare a heavy book with a light one; which one is more credible? Compare slick paper to coarse texture; which one is more credible? In an eBook or blog post, such considerations do not exist.
For several years, we’ve watched in fascination as people reach out and pick up books. Most readers have a sensory love affair with books. The way they hold them, rub them and smell them is reminiscent of a sensual interlude. Books might be merely physical objects comprised of paper and ink, but they combine to become something very special. And, the credibility impact is powerful.
Why is a book is the ultimate credibility marketing tool?
Here are some reasons why it is so effective:
1. You can control it.
2. It has a longer shelf life.
3. You can add it to your marketing strategy.
4. It can be leveraged.
5. Books are difficult to create (takes special expertise).
6. Based on hierarchy of marketing/communication’s top slot.
7. It's difficult for someone else to duplicate.
8. Books provide tangible credibility.
9. Very few other decision-makers have published a book.
When you look at all the ways information about your firm can be communicated, the ones you have little or no control over far outnumber the ones you can control. So, it makes sense that you would find the most powerful, accurate one you can control, and put it to work for you. That big gun is a book. And, one of its major advantages is that you control literally every aspect of it.
Since you are writing the book or supervising a writer, you control every word and every graphic. If you’re using print-on-demand services, you can control future changes on a daily or hourly basis.
A longer shelf life
I’ve been published in various trade journals in every month since 1986. If you’re keeping track, that pre-dates the Internet as a publishing source. So, I recently did a Google search and found the oldest one of my articles on the Internet. It was published in 2003.
Compare that to the printing dates of some of the books on your shelf. Pam and I use a 19th century dictionary, but that’s a bit unusual. We own many psychology books printed between 1950–1970. The point is, printed books will remain viable long after digital information stops coming up in online searches. Every time someone looks at your book, your credibility will speak. Will it still be relevant? That’s up to the quality of your thoughts and advice.
So, there are two edges to this sword. If you don’t get published, you evaporate into thin air with no viable wisdom legacy. But if you do get published, you will still be judged on your book’s wisdom and quality for many years to come.
You can add it to your marketing strategy
When we first began working with credibility, we looked around the business world, taking a close look at marketing strategies. The response to most of them was, “So what?” Even when the message was strong, the vehicles chosen to carry the message were weak. When you include a book in your marketing strategy, that changes . A book gives your marketing mix a star performer to carry the ball. A book adds power and credibility to all the other elements of your strategy.
“A book is like a big, thick, impressive $25 business card.”
-- David Maister, author of The Trusted Advisor
When you write a book, you can repurpose much of the content and use it in articles, newsletters, blogs, etc. This way, you actually get double, even triple payoff from the same content. Social media is one of the most effective ways to distribute your message(s). It is a fantastic world that can carry multiple messages in multiple forms. Thus, it allows you to very effectively leverage the content of your book.
Choosing the best vehicle for your target market
For our purposes, an e-Book is defined as a PDF “book” smaller than a print book and longer than an article or white paper. The content focus is similar to a book and white paper because it is focused on solving a problem for readers and potential clients.
The design and layout of an e-Book is different from printed business books or white papers, even though most e-Books are actually printed, rather than read online. They tend to have more white space, shorter sentences and paragraphs, more graphics and images, and easier scanability.
Readers of e-Books tend to not respond well to content that requires too much effort. They are more interested in gathering insights quickly and having a summarized version of content. e-Books can work well as teasers or support materials for longer papers and print books. Your strategy is this: if they like your E-Book, they will love your service, your keynote or your book.
- E-mail newsletters
E-mail newsletters offer an easy way to deliver targeted content and maintain credibility in the minds of customers and prospects. The caveat is that they only do this when employed correctly. Sadly, many e-mail newsletters fail to drive credibility because: 1) they are focused more on selling than providing relevant information, and 2) they are typically generic. Neither of those will enhance your credibility, but they will chip away at the credibility you do have.
- White papers
This is a specific type of document. It’s not opinion; it’s an objective, research-based exploration of a problem and a specific solution. The key to gaining credibility through white papers is to avoid giving merely your opinion and, at all costs, avoid selling. According to Michael A. Stelzner, author of Writing White Papers, “White Papers are powerful marketing tools used to help key decision makers and influencers justify implementing solutions.” That’s the primary objective. But, there’s a secondary objective: to demonstrate the depth of your expertise in that area of know-how, thus linkking you and your credibility to the solution.
- Magazine articles
The key to gaining credibility through articles is to never make it about yourself. Simply serve as the storyteller, not the star of the story. Knowing the story and pointing out the wisdom gained will point back to you, and show you in the best light. Consider finding a curmudgeon in your firm and having him/her give you feedback on how much self-serving content is in your article.
Credibility is the result of a process, not an event. You gain more and more credibility from the various ways you demonstrate your relevant wisdom. Referring back to this article will give you insights before you initiate the publishing.