Capitalizing on Credibility - What's the Biggest Payoff?

In 1990, a well known direct mail expert approached me about writing a brochure for him. His goal was to launch his new business with that brochure. To me, it seemed like the wrong tool for the job. After several conversations, I finally convinced him that he needed to publish a book. That book has now been reprinted many times and it launched the business into a long successful run.

There are two points to that story: 1) make sure you select the right tool for the job; and, 2) a book can give you the biggest payoff. Now, let's look at both of those points and figure out how you can capitalize on the biggest of guns.

Common to all serious manuscripts is a checklist of elements or qualities you need to address. How may of them you succeed at will determine how much credibility you get from the project. As an example, a few years ago, an author in the insurance industry sent me an autographed copy of his book. He was very proud of it. Unfortunately, it was terrible. It failed at most of the points in the following checklist. If you want to establish yourself as an expert or thought leader, You might want to refer to this checklist throughout the process:

Author's credentials

  • Relevant degrees or credentials
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Relevant field or employment experience
  • Past writings

Author's reputation

  • Cited in articles, books or bibliographies on the topic
  • Press
  • Speaker or lecturer at national conferences

Publisher

  • Commercial, trade, institutional, other
  • Known for quality and/or scholarly publications
  • Basic values of goals
  • Specialization
  • Review process

Author Association

  • Is author associated with reputable institutions
  • Is author associated with reputable organizations

Bias

  • Commitment to a point of view
  • Acknowledgement of bias
  • Presentation of facts and arguments for both sides
  • Language free of emotion-arousing words and bias

Language

  • Well-written and researched
  • Grammar, spelling, quality of writing

Layout and design

  • Appropriate amount of white space
  • Clean layout and clear graphics

Where do you get the biggest bang for the buck?

The number one credibility builder is clearly a book. Why? For many compelling reasons. Let's look at the three 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, finding an agent or publisher was itself long and painful. The effort involved kept many good ideas from being written. And, 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.

2. Permanence

It's one thing to express an opinion or post an idea in a blog, 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 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.

3. Tangibility

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 simply 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, those considerations do not exist.

For several years, we've watched in fascination as people reach out and pick up books. Most readers have an actual 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. Longer shelf life.
  3. Can add it to marketing strategy.
  4. Can be leveraged.
  5. Difficult to create (takes special expertise).
  6. Based on hierarchy of marketing/communication's top slot.
  7. Difficult for someone else to duplicate.
  8. Provides tangible credibility.
  9. Very few other decision makers have published a book.

You can control it

When you look at all the ways information about your firm could get communicated, the ones you have little or no control over far out number the ones you can control. So, it makes sense that you would find the most power, most 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

Over the years, I've been published in various trade journals, every month since 1986. If you're keeping track that predates 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 nineteenth century dictionary, but that's a bit unusual. We own many psychology books printed between 1950 - 1970. Point is - printed books will remain viable long after digital information stops coming up in online searches. Every time someone looks at your book, it'll be your credibility that speaks. 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. That changes when you include a book in your marketing strategy. Having 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

Leveragability

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 your book content.

Choosing the best vehicle for your target market

e-Books

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 scan-ability.

Readers of e-Books tend not to respond well to content that requires too much effort. They are more interested in gathering insights quickly and having a slightly 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 ebook, they will love your service, your keynote or your book.

Email newsletters

Email newsletters offer an easy way to deliver targeted content and maintain credibility in the minds of customers and prospects. The caveat, they do this when done correctly. Sadly, many email 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 link 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 story teller, 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.

In Conclusion

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.

Your Reward

Not every professional can write a book. But, everyone can publish something that will increase his/her credibility. Ahh, but here's the trick - you have to understand the concepts that add up to credibility. We created a Report titled, '6 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Communication Credibility.' If you would like a copy, just copy this paragraph and email it to me, along with your contact information: michael@aboutpeople.com. I will personally send the Report to you.

Note: This offer expires October 1, 2010.

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