I can first-hand attest to the fact that one of the greatest challenges for young entrepreneurs to gain success is the big bold red stamp veteran peers tend to place on them that claims “Lack Of Credibility.” In most cases, it takes a little bit of time for people to build a brand that their consumers believe and trust in, even when that includes personal branding. When I first embarked on my path as a free-lance publicists a few years ago, it was a constant battle having to prove my credibility without simply showing them my resume. But as an advocate for young entrepreneurs and small businesses, I am always looking to provide opportunity for startups that may not have the notoriety that comes along with well-known brand names. There are a number of small startups and entrepreneurs who do a great job at what they do, but still struggle to maintain their foundation due to this ‘lack of credibility’. So it brought me to a question: What actually constitutes credibility?
Pomp and Circumstance – That pricey piece of paper (AKA Degree) that so many people associate with a sense of prestige is normally one of the first ‘signs’ some people look at when evaluating a person’s credibility. It takes a level of dedication and commitment to finish four (or five, six, eight) years of additional schooling, so this is supposed to directly correlate to your credibility and work performance. Eh, well I’m sure there are plenty of people who wish they could have the chance to reevaluate the credibility of Apple genius Steve Jobs. In fact, there are a number of successful entrepreneurs who lack that flimsy piece of paper elegantly framed next to their mahogany wood and Pledge polished workspace. That’s right! People making MILLIONS without dishing out THOUSANDS for a college degree, an acceptable form of credibility according to society. I am not discrediting the importance of an education, although the American education institutions are not designed for everyone to succeed. What I am saying is that disputing a person’s level of skill and credibility by whether they dished out enough money and avoided life’s distractions long enough to finish college is incredibly absurd.
Presentation – This one is kind of a no-brainer. If you aren’t taking the time to make sure you are properly and professionally presenting yourself and your brand/business, then why should anyone take time out to try to take you seriously?
Credibility is defined as the quality of being trusted and believed in.
When an aspiring rapper comes to me wearing tattered clothing, knock off luxury brands and gaudy plated chains all whilst rapping about his fame and fortune and his endless resources, I am most likely going to send him the opposite direction and tell him to completely reevaluate himself. Same thing goes for the rapper in his parent’s house rapping about selling dope and killing people while sipping green tea . Yeah, sorry, that’s not even remotely believable. It might be if you actually tried to play the part! Your business and brand work the same way. If your presentation is on point, and you actually carry yourself like you know exactly what you are doing, who is to say you have no credibility?!
Consistency – If everyone was forced to have the word “consistency” tattooed in the middle of their palm, I truly think the world would function as a better place. It is single-handedly the most important key to success. Branding without consistency is futile. Your presentation, your product and your mission should all be consistent. Your performance, of course, should be seen as consistent. Even for the serial entrepreneur starting business venture after business venture, it is critical that each endeavor you start on proves consistent from start to finish. If you are continuously ‘starting over’ but not following through with consistency to your brand and your consumers, your credibility is immediately struck in the consumers eyes. You want to provide the impression that everything you touch will turn to gold! That is the kind of promise your customers want to see.
Reputation – Word of mouth is the most effective form of advertisement. If it wasn’t, there would be a lot of publicists that would be out of a job. Although the hippie in me loves the coined phrase “Who cares what people think!?” when establishing your credibility it is very important what people think. When looking for a product or service, how many of you take to the internet to read through those reviews? My hand is definitely raised. It’s so important to maintain a positive reputation in order to keep your credibility intact. Your reputation is a result of your presentation and execution of consistency combined.
So for those of you who are starting a business and lack the ideal clientele, or maybe didn’t finish your degree, or don’t have a killer office space with the top floor view; keep your head held high, talk the talk, walk the walk, and do the best job you can do all the time! That is what constitutes real credibility.
Jessica Rafaeil is a P.R. and Branding Specialist that loves working with young artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs.