How’s Your Credibility?

Last week, #math was a trending topic on Twitter.  While interviewing New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, MSNBC’s Brian Williams shared the following tweet from journalist Mekita Rivas:

Williams commented, “It’s an incredible way of putting it.”  Gay echoed his sentiment and added, “It’s true. It’s disturbing.”

You can find the video here:

Obviously, $500 million distributed across 327 million people would result in each person receiving a minuscule $1.53.

Many people used this clip to demonstrate that the media lacks credibility.  If the media can’t be trusted with simple math, why should we trust them with more important items?

In my recent column for the Journal of Financial Planning, “Building Trust in an Increasingly Skeptical World,” I shared three factors that influence the perception of trustworthiness.

The first factor is Credibility.  Credibility answers the question, “Does this person know what he or she is talking about?”  Or stated a bit differently, it’s someone’s capacity to do what they say they will do.

For example, if I offer to change the oil in your car, do you believe that I possess the know-how along with the resources to do so?

More often than not, credibility is inferred based on external evidence.

Using the oil change example, you would be more likely to trust me if you met me at Jiffy Lube, I was in coveralls and my hands were dirty. You have to look the part.  This is why a professional appearance matters for advisors and planners.

Credibility can also be inferred by certifications and designations such as the CFP®, a clear and professional website, and references by others.

External evidence provides a mental shortcut.  Rather than thoroughly vetting each person, we use these external cues to help shape our decisions.

But for most people, your credibility is communicated by everything you say or do.  Do you speak authoritatively?  Do you demonstrate wisdom and experience?  Can you refer to specific instances where you have helped others?

What can you do to improve your credibility?  Here are three simple steps:

  1. Create and implement an ongoing education plan to increase your mastery of the knowledge and skills required of an advisor.
  2. Seek opportunities to use those knowledge and skills to assist others.
  3. Craft a compelling message that conveys your ability to apply your experience and perspective then share that message with others.

Need some help getting started?  Send me an email for a free consultation.  I’d be glad to spend 30 minutes or so helping you improve your credibility.

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