I was reading an article on Econsultancy today that purported to be a helpful piece on “Five Questions Your Corporate Blog Should Answer.” There was nothing terribly wrong with the article — it was just another in a seemingly endless series of banal advice posts that reminds one of things one already knows, which serves a kind of purpose, I suppose. What got my attention was this: “Varying your subject expands your credibility and increases your chances of gaining social shares, which in turn drive traffic.” On the surface, the comment doesn’t raise eyebrows and seems fairly straightforward. My problem was with the phrase “expands your credibility.”
That phrase seems to indicate that the author, Tom Albrighton, thinks credibility is something that can expand or contract, depending on whether you are entertaining your blog readers or not. That appears to be a growing consensus in the online realm — your credibility is equivalent to your Klout score or your “reach” or the number of followers you have on Twitter or the number of “likes” on your Facebook page. This view assumes that credibility is a fluid thing that can change, either increasing or decreasing depending on how many people retweet your latest brain burp. That’s simply not true. Credibility is an either-or thing. You either have it or you don’t. In that respect, it’s like pregnancy — a woman can’t be “a little pregnant.” In the public relations business, credibility is something that is established over years of being credible. It is based on creating press materials that demonstrate an understanding of what journalists need in order to do their jobs and delivering those materials in a timely manner with no mistakes or hype and in a format that makes it easy to use. It also means you spell everything correctly and write well, so that the meaning is accessible and clear. Credibility is a zero-sum deal. Journalists either trust you and the information you give them or they don’t, and pass you off as just another flack. You can’t “expand your credibility,” you either got it or you don’t — and if you don’t, it’s hard as hell to get. Just ask a reporter.