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Improve your online credibility in 3 steps

Improve your online credibility in 3 steps

Are you knowledgeable, credible and trustworthy? Does your audience perceive you that way?
Or, do they see you as the equivalent of a used car salesman?
The trustworthiness of professionals in the business world is questionable. As an audience can assume a business professional is interested in self-gain, it is understandable that credibility is questioned. Add to that constant news stories reporting business executives and policy makers that make unethical decisions and it is no wonder the general public questions many professionals.
In order to establish and maintain credibility, it is important to optimize your online presence to create transparency, vulnerability and to empower your audience. Only then will you become credible in their eyes and have the opportunity to change beliefs, attitudes and actions.
Through helping others develop presentations, I’ve learned that deriving credibility is one of the most difficult tasks for a presenter. What is surprising to most data driven professionals is that credibility is not strictly based off of what you have done and what you know, but often, how the audience feels about you. Unfortunately, your actual credibility and your perceived credibility are not the same. Yet, it is your perceived credibility that makes all the difference when it comes to persuading others to change their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
How can you improve your credibility? It is best to earn credibility before you even have a conversation with your audience. Here, you will learn three steps to improve your perceived credibility online so that you can begin to change the attitudes, beliefs and actions of decision makers, word wide.

Step 1: Become transparent

The first thing to do is develop a website. It is important that you do not hide behind the text. Rather, open yourself up to the public by displaying your picture, means of contact, video with a personal message to site visitors, and other insights into your personality . All of this seeks to increase transparency.
Transparency will allow the audience to identify with you. An audience is most likely to follow those who seem similar to them. As a scientist, your work might appear distant to many people outside of your field. It is difficult to relate to data. Putting a human behind the work allows the audience to find similarities between you and them. Identification is a very strong factor in persuasion. Kenneth Burke claims that in order for persuasion to take place, identification must also take place.
[Related: Free resources to improve online communication]

Step 2: Become vulnerable

Specifically, share personal information that creates vulnerability through social media.
In the article Communication strategies for earning trust in climate change debates, Goodwin and Dahlstrom discuss four strategies that scientists can use to improve their credibility. Vulnerability was one of those. It can work for professionals in any field.
Becoming vulnerable is perhaps against all intuition for any professional. This vulnerability is an aspect of you that the audience must see to begin to realize your expertise. By showing more than your professional side, you become human. In the long run, becoming vulnerable will ultimately lead to increased credibility.

Step 3: Make small claims

Make small claims that the audience can verify. It is not always feasible for your audience to verify every recommendation you make. For instance, if you advice on investments, the audience might not have the means to follow each of your recommendations. If you advise on marketing, they may not sit in the decision seat that will allow such an experiment. However, there are likely small recommendations that are free or inexpensive that your audience can work through before making a larger commitment. Allowing them to do so will help to build trust and credibility. After they have verified small claims, they are more likely to accept other claims that they are unable or unwilling to verify.
Establishing an online presence will allow you to become transparent, vulnerable and provide a platform that empowers your audience. All of these will create an opportunity for you to reach more people and become more credible among non-academics.
To learn more about communicating your credibility, read this article that outlines the two components of credibility: character and competence.

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About the Author Sandy Donovan

Sandy empowers the young and talented to increase their power and influence by improving their ability to be heard and be clear. She does this by providing access to rigorously tested research in the communication, psychology, and marketing fields.