June 8, 2010

The Six Elements Of Credibility

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"Credibility is the only currency in the vast and noisy marketplace"
--- Pete Blackshaw

Consumers can now make themselves heard for free and permanently via Consumer Generated Media (blogs, videos, photos, comments, Facebook, Twitter,…).

Your credibility matters ever more, but what are the ingredients?

You'll get an excellent explanation in Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World. Author Pete Blackshaw identifies the six elements of credibility
  1. Trust
  2. Authenticity
  3. Transparency
  4. Listening
  5. Responsiveness [to feedback]
  6. Affirmation [verification/confirmation]
Each ingredient is powerful alone. Since they're interrelated, each matters. We'll look at #1, 5 and 6 in more detail.


Since the Internet remembers, deception is easy to spot and impossible to erase.

For reasons unknown, the author doesn't bother to read his own audiobook. Doesn't he care? Does he sound terrible? Is he lazy? The narrator, Lloyd James, has read over 160 other books. So this book feels more like Lloyd's than Pete's.


Consumers trust consumers most. Neilson Research repeatedly shows that after word of mouth, the most trusted resource is a brand's website. Visitors arrive looking for information and to solve problems.

If you don't have a website by now, you're doing yourself a great disservice. If you don't have the right content, you're doing your visitors a disservice.

Responsiveness to Feedback

Listening is important but what's the point if you don't respond to what you learn? Quick, appropriate action is ideal. It's easy to mess up. The consequences last forever.

Here's a touching example from Ellen Roseman's blog: Widows waits 11 months for life insurance to be paid. In the first comment, the widow gives a detailed explanation of what happened. She concludes, saying the insurer "discredited the entire insurance business in Canada, the idea and meaning of insurance." Other comments echo this tone. Where is the response from the insurer? Do they even have a Google Alert to track when they're mentioned online?

In contrast, in How to cancel your fitness club membership, the COO rectifies the problem promptly. That's not the end of the story. Other commenters identify more bad behaviour at the same chain. No response. How likely are you to join that club? [Read about more fitness club options.]

Simply adding links to the above blog posts increases their relevance to search engines.


If you make a key claim, your potential client may look for confirmation elsewhere. If they don't find it, they won't believe you.

Here's an example. I'm thinking of joining a for-profit networking group. Online, the organization gets more complaints than compliments. I asked around and found widespread dissatisfaction among prior attendees. I asked an organizer basic questions and got no reply. Given that, how much faith can I place in the glowing praise on their website?

Pete makes the six elements of credibility easier to remember, hence easier to apply. The many examples in his book remind us of the benefits. And consequences.


PS The same narrator reads Nudge: Improving Decisions About Heath, Wealth and Happiness (amazon.com)

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