Credibility. What does it mean? Believability. “The quality or power of inspiring belief,” according to my Webster’s (as in “This candidate lacks credibility.”) and “capacity for belief,” e.g., “His claims strained her credibility.”
The word itself, Webster’s tells us, has been around since 1594. In the more positive sense, one might hope, longer than that.
Trustworthiness, my computer dictionary adds, along with synonyms reliability, integrity, authority, standing, and sincerity.
How do you want your reader to think of you? And how do you demonstrate these qualities with your writing?
To begin with, take a look at those definitions, and those synonyms – the words that could be substituted for credibility, depending on the shading of meaning you intend. My computer tells us these are the things we must do and be, consistently, so people can believe in us. Can find us worthy of trust. The key is consistency. In every action, whether anyone knows about it – or will ever find out about it – or not. An essential beginning point.
Now, with your business writing:
1. Fact check everything you say. It’s really awkward to be found out! At the very best, it will appear that you are not thorough, and may be too quick to act on, or to believe rumors and hearsay. At the worst, well…
2. To add to your credibility, give your source(s), even if it’s “the man who waited for the bus with me on Tuesday.” Perhaps obviously, it helps to quote a recognized, already-credible source for at least two reasons: (1) you can “hitch-hike” on his, her, or their existing credibility; and (2) what you have attributed to him, her, or them can be checked out. Not that many readers will be likely to check it out, but if they wanted to, they could.
Statistics from a credible source, and possibly an interview with a believable person or group also count in this category. Be cautious about the information you find online, especially if it comes from a place where anyone can contribute without the information being checked. If you still want to use it, check it out thoroughly with reputable, trusted resources.
3. Constantly learning, and improving your competence builds credibility. How much do you know about, or how well can you do what you are asking others to do, or what they ask you to do? Are you keeping up with those aspects of business that are important in your industry or profession?
How often do you take continuing education courses, in person, or online? How much do you learn on your own, even when classes, meetings, or courses are not mandated for accreditation, licensure, or certification? Do you spend your own money, and your own time on books, classes, online learning, or do you count on your employer to offer, or to reimburse you for taking them?
What do you read in your off-hours? How do you keep up with industry/professional trends? Do you fully, and capably meet the requirements of your job? How well can you help your customers, patients, or clients when they have a problem in your area?
4. Communication. Here I’ve got to express my bias. Think about it, and let me know if you agree? In my opinion, no matter how brilliant, how capable, how educated – if you cannot communicate that brilliance to others – it’s totally wasted, and does no good for anyone. Don’t waste your talent, your skills, your special know-how and experience. Don’t throw it all away!
Learn to communicate so you can share what you know to help others. And to raise your credibility.
Let Gail Tycer show you how to write less, say more – and get results! Bring a Gail Tycer business writing workshop to your organization, or recommend Gail for your next meeting. Executive coaching, consulting, and writing and editing services are also available. To see how we might work together, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email firstname.lastname@example.org