The U.S. national political landscape is all about credibility — or lack of it. Business looks a bit better, but not great. If you are working in communications, you are likely watching the spectacle of press briefings, earnings machinations, statements, apologies, sound bites, and spin with a certain amount of awe. Too often it’s a clown car of ineptitude.
The purpose of communications is to relate and engage with other human beings. It is about sharing the human experience. Otherwise, we don’t really need to ever speak or put anything into writing.
There isn’t a point to communications if you’re not connecting, relating, educating, convincing or motivating.
In politics and business communications there should be an outcome to all our effort — there should be a purpose. Communication with purpose usually involves some kind of motivation. Getting someone, or a whole bunch of someones, to DO something is why we do what we do. Ultimately, what enables communication with purpose is credibility.
Having credibility, or not having it, defines communications success in business and life.
It is a good idea to think about credibility as the currency of communications. If we think about it as an important asset, something valuable, we’re more likely to thoughtfully protect the credibility of our organizations and our own reputations.
So if credibility is currency in communications, are you adding to your bank account or are you on the verge of being flat broke?
It’s easy to manage your credibility bank account and grow your reputation wealth. Very simply, you need more deposits – many more – in the account than withdrawals. Ideally, the credibility deposits should be ones that come with compounded interest. These are communications that reinforce credibility with existing constituents and create or build credibility with new audiences.
Where do you have deposits, where are there withdrawals, and where are you overdrawn?
Look at communication channels, the communications within those channels and the audiences and constituents receiving the communications. Are you relating effectively or just speaking loudly? Are you depositing credibility pocket change or something truly substantial? Are you making regular deposits to your credibility account? Or are you just spending your credibility fortune like a newly minted lottery winner?
Don’t kid yourself or others when answering these questions. You have to look at it from outside your normal vantage point. This may require criticism from a person outside of the loop, someone who has no skin in the game. Don’t go to your usual critics, they do have skin in the game and there are reasons they are so vocal. In this audit, you want a purely objective point of view.
If you are constantly using your credibility currency to manage issues, you are doing the equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck.
In our day-to-day worlds, the urgent often eclipses the meaningful. Issues management is the hamster wheel of communications. If you are spending most of your time managing issues, you are running in place at best and you will never get ahead. You will never be reputation wealthy.
The body of what we say and stand for should be as important to us as our hard-earned paychecks and bank accounts. Pay attention to your credibility bank account and you are building reputation wealth you can count on well into the future. Fail to continually invest and you are squandering your fortune.