You’re always looking, especially as a storyteller, a way into finding a point of trust with your audience or with who you’re with” (Kling, OnBeing, March 12, 2012) 

It’s late September and Laura says, “I share stories all the time online and I still don’t feel like I am taken seriously. What else do I need to say to let them know I am the real deal? I want to prove I am credible.”

I review the last three months of her LinkedIn posts with her and categorize each story into a story type.

Some of her posts make me laugh.

Some of them touch my heart.

But many of her posts are forgettable because she only relies on two types of stories. She tells results and “you’re missing out” stories.

Result stories usually start with, “I was working with a client and…” Her result stories describe clients who come to her confused and how her coaching services save the day. They all end happily. The client gets the result they want from her efforts.

The “You’re missing out” stories are tease stories about the work she does and encourages people to sign up for. They sound like this, “I was working with a client who already hired a resume writer and still wasn’t getting the results they wanted. They were feeling stupid for wasting that money. I shared with them the four must-do steps before writing a resume. Join me for a free webinar today to learn the four steps — it will not be recorded.”

Result and “You’re missing out” stories have a place in a story strategy. But, they’re interest-building stories — not credibility builders. They’re not enough for people to believe in your work.

“Laura,” I said. “What is happening is you only use two types of stories. If people hear the same kind of story repeatedly, it becomes forgettable. What used to be intriguing, is now repetitive. And every other amateur coach is using the same two story styles. Since your main concern is credibility, let’s work on building credibility stories.”

WHAT IS A CRED STORY

A credibility story is a story that demonstrates your credibility to your audience by referencing training, articles, associations, or research to support your work. You can drop in:

  • The name of the program you graduated from (In my MBA program…)
  • A recent article you wrote (In my latest Thrive article…)
  • A recent article that describes a process you use (In Adam Grant’s recent tweet…)
  • A book or talk you wrote or presented (In my book, The Career Stories Method, I…)
  • A book or talk that backs up what you do in your practice (In the book…)
  • A scholarly article to support your work (I was fascinated to read a recent study on…”

All of these help to build credibility because it shows the education you invested in and your commitment to learning. If your work is featured by other groups or companies, that builds credibility. Sharing your sources doesn’t take away from your credibility, it adds to it. Being able to curate and share valuable resources created by other people is as important as sharing your own success stories.

You share the source and connect it to something you have done or helped someone with. In the beginning, you don’t need to go searching for new research to back up your work — you can share the source of what worked for you.

“I once heard Philip Roth deliver a talk on his latest novel, The Plot against America. What struck me most was this great writer saying that every night he would go to bed reminding himself, “Don’t invent, remember.” (Lopate, To Show and to Tell).

WHY THEY WORK

The barrier to entry is low in certain sectors, especially coaching. Certification is not required. Any coach can make up stories about client success. When you share sources and influences, you send a signal that you’re invested in the work and gaining expertise.

Imagine there are two coaches:

  1. One coach hasn’t taken a single coach training program. They share posts and ideas about job search and how clients they work with are landing jobs.
  2. The other coach hasn’t taken a single coach training program. They share posts and ideas about job search and how clients they work with are landing jobs. Every other week they post about a coaching tool they find effective. They explain the tool, how they use it, and the results it has given clients. They share a link to the tool.

The second coach is not more educated than the first, but their sharing makes them more credible.

Credibility stories give your content depth.

Credibility stories can become connector stories. If you share enthusiasm for someone’s new book, and a follower also loves their book, you’ll build another link of trust between them. Often we bond with people who share our tastes.

Being a wise curator is as valued as being a wise creator. If you save people time and effort by bringing the research to them, it only makes you more credible. Like Allen Gannet’s, The Creative Brief. He does the work for me.

It also helps you to grow your knowledge and have a place to share it. You can build time to research and read into your weekly schedule. I spend Monday mornings reading for a few hours. I make notes on what I’m reading and this helps me build new content and make connections.

BUT WHAT ABOUT AUTHENTICITY AND BEING MYSELF — WHY WOULD I WANT TO HIGHLIGHT OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK?

Being authentic is key to building trust. But you have to gain status first. If people don’t take your work seriously right now, share credibility stories. Then they’ll have a more favorable reaction.

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WHY CRED STORIES ALONE WON’T WORK

Credibility stories are great to use, but you want to use them in combination with other stories. I use 10 different story types to help people create story strategies (read this article to learn them). If you only share cred stories, you miss out on helping people to know your voice and ideas. They’re often the least emotion-inducing type of story.

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When credibility stories are shared alongside a source story, connector stories, and result stories, people get to know multiple sides of your work, and trust is built.

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR CREDIBILITY STORIES

The process:

1. Read.

2. When you read about an idea, resource, or research that would benefit your clients make a note about it. (I use Google Keep to save the links, and roam research to make notes/connections about the content).

3. Remember. Think back to a resource that was useful for you in your career. Return to publications, talks, interviews, or articles you’ve written in the past. What nuggets or quotes are useful for your audience?

4. Put together a series of posts where you share these ideas. You can limit yourself to one to three credibility posts a month.

5. Watch how the interactions with people change. What kind of resources and cred-builders get the most traction? Which are the most fun to share? Keep building and sharing those types. (Keep in mind that often you get penalized for linking to outside content on social media. The site wants you to keep people here, not clicking away. Low engagement (likes and views) is not an accurate measure of a credibility story success. The success is if more people reach out to you privately).

Happy story shaping.

In the next article, I’ll share tips on how to trust yourself before you share stories.