In the nascent stages of my first business, I attended a business conference here in Denver, led by a woman who would eventually become my de facto business coach (I say that because, while I’ve never participated in her high-end mastermind program, I go to all her conferences, and have used several of her infoproducts). (P.S. She’s holding another one in September. I’m gonna be there. I’m not an affiliate, but she puts on a great event!)
One of the keynote speakers was her accountability partner, a beautiful woman with a Southern drawl who spoke a bit like a revival preacher—probably because she is a business coach to spiritual leaders; in other words, she teaches pastors how to run their churches more like a business. She was truly inspirational, but the key moment for me was when she talked about what kind of credentials you need to be successful.
I was still plugging away at my food blog and had wondered if I should study and get some kind of degree or credential in nutrition or go to culinary school so that people would take me more seriously. But as I sat there, practically in tears, feeling like she was talking directly to me, I realized I was enough.
The same was true when I started this business. I don’t have a journalism degree or a creative writing degree or even an English degree. (I have a BA in the very artsy-fartsy sounding field of Moving Image Arts, if you were wondering.)
Yet people hire me. People read my blog. People interview me. I have become (and I’m still working on becoming) a trusted authority in this space.
My coach mentioned that while she has two coaching certifications (not to mention multiple degrees), no one has ever asked her about them. She’s a high-level coach, charging thousands of dollars for her coaching programs and no one has ever asked to see her credentials. Why?
Because the nature of authority has changed.
It used to be, back when we lived in little mud huts and small villages, that we listened to our elders because they were, well, elder.
Then, maybe, the authorities in charge were the people who had money.
I don’t know about you, but how old or how rich somebody is has very little baring to me on whether or not I trust them!
Then, things got democratized a little bit, and we started conferring more authority in some circumstances on people who were more educated. (Let’s not get into the problems surrounding the cost of education… That’s somebody else’s blog!)
But nowadays, in the digital age, anyone can be an authority on anything: age, race, sex, education level, income level be damned.
In this new age of authority, you listen to me because you want to—not because somebody else told you to.
Think about your favorite bloggers, gurus, TV personalities—do you know the credentials of any of them? Do you know where they went to school or anything else? Probably not. Because no one else, no governing body or review board, has told you to listen to them. You chose to listen to them yourself.
So, the rules of what makes someone an authority have changed. But there are still rules. I still have to prove a level of credibility before you’re going to trust me and my advice. But it’s easier to achieve than you might think if you can infuse your writing with the following characteristics:
All of these characteristics can eventually lead to a certain amount of celebrity—which can lend its own authority. My favorite example of new authority is Dr. Oz; he was a successful cardiologist for years, had all the advanced degrees and probably even a degree of wealth and age that would confer authority on him by the old standards.
But he didn’t become a world-reknowned household name until Oprah crowned him a health expert. Oprah’s not a doctor. She’s not the American Medical Association. Yet she gave Dr. Oz more authority than he ever could have gotten from those old school sources by saying that she chose to listen to him. That’s new authority in its most powerful form.
In truth, I’ve got several “credentials” that make me qualified to be a ghost blogger. I’ve got three journalism awards to my name, eight years of professional journalism experience, and a track record of writing blogs that do well in a lot of different arenas.
I have to have the talent, the expertise, the experience to back up my claims.
But do you see how none of that would make a bit of difference if you didn’t like me? If you didn’t enjoy reading my blogs, you wouldn’t be here. If you didn’t think I had something to say, you wouldn’t have signed up for my newsletter or liked me on Facebook.
I could have 40 journalism awards, and it probably wouldn’t make a bit of difference.
So tell me: How do you cultivate authenticity and authority on your blog? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!