Public’s Trust is a Must
It’s hard enough to get your technical work done within budget and time constrictions.
It’s nearly impossible if you lack credibility with your public.
Even a private entity, like a utility, with a pretty obvious mission and type of service — will find it challenging to get much done without resistance if it doesn’t have the public’s trust.
Those fortunate enough to have credibility with the public can’t rest on that long as it’s far easier to lose, than to regain.
And the way to gain it, is anything but intuitive…
Polished has a Dark Side
As professionals, you want the public to feel at ease given your level of expertise and knowledge.
So it’s natural (and easy) to create polished looking handouts, flyers, and websites as a reflection of your team’s competence.
The problem is, you might unwittingly be also sending the message that you’re further along in your plans and decision-making process than you actually are.
When you claim “We’re just beginning to look into the issue of X, Y, Z…” the public finds that counter-intuitive considering how finished your materials appear to be.
If you’re really in the preliminary stages of a project, have your slides, handouts, and delivery of information reflect that.
Use like butcher paper and markers to outline information and simultaneously communicate — you really are in the “head-scratching” stage!
If you haven’t even settled on the project’s name — show those nominated and what, if anything, has already been ruled out.
Otherwise, you show up at a meeting asking for “input” and the public immediately senses you’re further along than you are because of the mediums through which you’re sharing information.
Find a way to make the medium communicate where in the process you are to help bolster your credibility.
Your Grandmother isn’t Fooled
You’re not fooling anyone. Not even Grandma.
You know it, we know it — no one is perfect. Not even your highly capable, dedicated, and talented team.
So why give signals otherwise?
Not only are you not fooling anyone. You’re making the public more cynical and skeptical about your sense of reality if you don’t openly admit to your team’s mistakes, gaffes, and mismanagement.
No one said this one is easy. But it is critical.
Without this level of humility and honesty, your credibility with the public will never be cultivated.
It’s Not All Roses
It’s tempting to get so focused on the benefits of the project at hand that you fail to get the public to appreciate — there will be drawbacks.
Drawbacks aren’t a sign of poor technical work, they’re a reality when you’re addressing serious and complex community problems.
Yes, share the project’s PROs — but only after you’ve really underlined the CONs. Otherwise, your credibility is in jeopardy as it appears you’re blind to these negative impacts.
Worse yet — you’ll seem oblivious about those who will feel them the most.
Explain that even given the negative impacts — and who exactly will feel them the most — this is STILL the right way to proceed.
(We know this is no tall order! But it is achievable as it’s at the heart of our whole Consent-Building methodology.)
The Short Cut to Credibility
Nurturing and protecting your credibility isn’t easy or even natural. If it were, everyone who deserves it would have it.
Even putting these three practices to work for your team will likely take some effort and won’t feel natural.
And that’s what developing credibility really takes — guts.
It’ll take the guts to go against your own reflexes, your team’s, your boss’, and your organization’s entrenched practices.
If being like nearly everyone else — frustrated, ineffective, distrusted — is your goal. Then you’re reading the wrong blog. Go back to the uphill battle that never ends of doing “business as usual.”
But if you want to have your public’s respect, trust, and credibility — then having the guts to follow these and our overall Consent-Building methodology will land you in a whole new paradigm.
We have case-study after case-study to back up these points on credibility (and many more) from the nearly 40,000 public professionals like you we’ve trained.
Gimmicks won’t gain you an ounce of credibility. Even the best PR eventually backfires.
With Consent-Building there’s NO gimmicks, NO trickery, NO spin. Just genuine honesty, humility, and dedication to your mission.
Upcoming training: Our “SDIC” Consent-Building training helps technical subject-matter experts (responsible for tackling difficult problems) get their proposals IMPLEMENTED … in what is – after all – a POLITICAL decision-making process!
That’s how we make you and your agency more effective: Helping you accomplish your mission by developing the Informed Consent of your fiercest opponents.