Establishing credibility: Why and how to do it


A common reputational goal my team is often asked to help achieve for clients is to establish them and their business as a thought leader in their field.  Recently, Rosie Harris on my team put together some thoughts about how our team goes about making this happen so I thought I would share this with Waikato Business News readers this month.

We always say that becoming a thought leader is not something that happens overnight; it most often takes years of sustained effort to position a business as an eminent voice.

To do so, businesses need to establish credibility, defined as the quality of being believable or worthy of trust. Achieving credibility can be done by the organisation itself, but it really requires the involvement of third-party opinions and backing.

After all, what is more believable – a business tooting its own horn, or a story on the organisation from a reputable source (such as the media, their customers or partners in business)?

The following are three essentials for building your business’ trustworthiness.

The media

A key channel through which to build trust is through traditional media. Why? Because media outlets have large audiences and those we work with have established public trust. When you read an article in Waikato Business News, Stuff or NZ Herald you trust that the journalists have done their research and applied rigour to whatever they may be printing. In fact, an AUT report published earlier this year showed that 53 percent of New Zealanders trust the news most of the time. As we always say when working with the media, this channel will only work to establish credibility if you have a great story to tell.

More than likely you do, so the goal is to craft a story so it has a strong news angle that appeals to the media gatekeepers.

The dream situation is when you have the media coming to you for comment; this is what can take years to establish. If you’re a honey company and a journalist is doing a story on the effects of Covid-19 on the industry, you want that journalist coming to you. That’s when you’ll know they see you as a credible and leading entity.

Your customers

If you offer an outstanding product or service, surely your customers should be your biggest advocates.

The key benefit of using customers in your communications is that they have first-hand experience of your business, and likely have similar characteristics to your potential future customers. People like to hear from others like themselves – if I see an older man dressed for the beef farm spouting how amazing a vegan handbag is, I would question whether the handbag is really one I want or should buy (and might just be generally confused!).

A great way to get customer endorsement is through testimonials, so others can read about their experiences of the product or service. A testimonial is one of the most important pieces of copy you can put on your website, social media or any other marketing communication. It shows customers that someone else has tried this, and liked it, reassuring them that your product is tested and a safe investment. When you’ve found customers happy to provide a testimonial, follow this formula: the before stage, when the customer has an issue or problem, the after stage sharing the results and the overall experience; how did they feel after interacting with the business?

Even better than a written testimonial? Get visual with it and make video content of customers using your product or service. This can be far more engaging for those you’re trying to reach, and works well in digital advertising.

Provide the evidence

It’s something you learn at school; you can’t make a statement without having the evidence to back it up. You can say that your vitamin range will prevent aches and pains, but you need statistics to sit behind that charge.

If it’s research, it should be conducted by an independent entity, or if it’s a survey it should have a wide enough sample so it is an accurate representation of a particular population.

People respond to stats, and if you’re writing a media release or statement the journalist will need the evidence for their story – you can’t just say that 50 percent of New Zealanders love camembert cheese without citing a source.

Establishing credibility and becoming respected as a thought leader takes time and purposeful perseverance.  Using these three pieces of advice will get you started.


About Author

Heather Claycomb is director of HMC, a Hamilton-based, award-winning public relations agency.