I like to think it’s not always what you know that leads to new relationships and exciting opportunities, but rather who you know — and what they know that you know. You know what I mean?
I’ll use myself as an example. I’m not exactly someone you’d call a bookworm; I don’t spend all my free time with my nose in a book or, more appropriately, my face in a screen. And I’m not one of those people who’s particularly skilled at recalling and sharing facts related to wherever a group discussion takes everyone (unless it’s about TV, cats, or social media trends).
But I do know others who also like those things, and I can offer something of value to them when I share my knowledge about “SNL” in the ’90s, cats, and social. With that as our foundation, we can nurture relationships built on something genuine. And that can lead to things that would never have been possible without these relationships — like Molly Shannon actually commenting on my Instagram photo of my “SNL: Best of Molly Shannon” DVD.
You’re probably not building your brand around Molly Shannon DVDs, but that doesn’t matter. Regardless of your niche or what specific value you offer your audience, all of your best relationships will share one distinct element: a foundation of trust.
The thing is, trust takes time; it’s not an overnight phenomenon, and it’s not transactional. You have to build trust, and one way to begin is by making it easy for others to like you. It is so much easier for people to trust you and your brand when they like you. I mean, who’s willing to put their trust in or advocate for someone they don’t even like?
The same can be said about your brand’s audience. To trust you, your audience has to like you, and to like you, they need to know you. So how do you get future clients, partners, investors, and employees to like you, let alone trust you, when they don’t even know you yet?
The key to getting your audience to know who you are, like you, trust you, and eventually work with you is transparency, and you can communicate that transparency through your own authentic thought leadership.
Why thought leadership? Because it’s the cat’s pajamas. (I did it; I managed to mention cats twice in one post. Yes!)
But really, thought leadership content can help you demonstrate transparency. Creating content that engages your audience and using it as a tool to build your influence and fuel thought leadership ties a face and a name to an otherwise impersonal company brand. It humanizes your company.
That human element makes your brand appear more approachable, transparent, and easy to work with. Add to that the value and expertise you’re sharing through your content, the authenticity and honesty of your insights, and you begin knocking down your audience’s trust barriers.
Because you were able to use content to break down trust barriers, you’ve made your brand likable in the eyes of your audience. That content has to meet a few criteria to actually meet your goals.
Our CEO, John Hall, offers a tactical deep dive into building trust, creating and distributing content, and generating opportunity in his new business book, “Top of Mind.” For now, you can use these two major rules of thumb to begin practicing effective, transparent thought leadership and, thus, enhance your likability and the trust you build with your audience:
This should be engraved in your mind, metaphorically tattooed on your forehead, or, at the very least, inscribed on a Post-It note stuck to your computer at all times. Being overly promotional in your content will stall your trust-building efforts because it makes you look pushy and like you don’t honestly care about your audience’s needs.
Nothing screams “untrustworthy!” like a generic sales pitch or blatantly promotional content around your company. Stick to IDEA communication to keep your content as engaging as possible.
This goes hand in hand with avoiding self-promotion in your content: When your focus isn’t on pushing for the sale, you can concentrate your efforts on highlighting the value in your message and sharing it with your audience.
The goal of your content should be to offer value to your readers. You want it to address their needs, concerns, and questions, to educate and entertain them. This helps position you as a strong and reliable resource at the top of their minds.
The road toward creating trust through transparency has even more landmarks, so don’t stop here. Make sure you’re capitalizing on every opportunity to create trust among yourself and your audience by practicing transparency.
Natalie Slyman is a content marketing and social media professional. She enjoys reading her favorite blogs, perusing Instagram, and talking about her cats (even when no one is listening).