Becoming an authority: Credentials help, of course, but there is more to the story

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carpenters feature
The Carpenters Union in Ontario has taken measures to increase the authority recognition of its members, including its lobbying for the Ontario College of Trades and compulsory certification for the trade.
Col. Steven A Baker, Wilmington District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers at a military-construction event in North Carolina. Obviously, he communicates (rightfully) quite a bit of authority
Col. Steven A Baker, Wilmington District Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers at a military-construction event in North Carolina. Obviously, he communicates (rightfully) quite a bit of authority.

There’s plenty of research that authority — or perhaps more painfully, perception of authority — carries a lot of marketing weight. If you really are the “acknowledged leader” in a speciality or area of expertise, you can command sky-high prices, and have people waiting at your door.

Obviously, you can’t get that status by advertising (unless you really are crass) simply that you are the “acknowledged leader”. You need some proof, evidence, or maybe credentials to make your story meaningful. Yet there are some ways you can enhance or expand your authority.

To start, the basics:

Fundamental credentials

carpenters feature
The Carpenters Union in Ontario has taken measures to increase the authority recognition of its members, including its lobbying for the Ontario College of Trades and compulsory certification for the trade.

You cannot call yourself an architect without an architect’s degree. And you certainly shouldn’t claim you are a PEng unless you’ve passed your final exams and can hang the accredited university degree on your wall. In other words, these are genuine professions — you have to go through some serious hoops — and complete plenty of years of education — to complete them If you have these credentials, you receive an instant “authority” pass. (Yes, this means a first year engineer or architect has as much authority as someone  with many more years — but, as you’ll see below, you can certainly go beyond the fundamental to achieve additional credentials

Years of experience

Certainly, experience counts in our industry. Prove you’ve been around a long time, and you’ll have a plus.  If you are celebrating a milestone anniversary you have an instant marketing opportunity

Client testimonials and recommendations (especially from authoritative clients)

I brag quite often about my relationship with Google. In part, it is because it is satisfying to the ego to do this. But the authority credential also carries some weight, especially in validating internet search, technology, and other new-era marketing challenges. If you have high-profile or well-recognized clients, you have a built-in authority resource.

Clothes, manners, style

These are challenging authority indicators because you can fake them or at least manage them. I don’t think too many architects should go around in white medical cloaks.  However, neat, crisp, and professional uniforms may work well for site tradespeople and dressing up or down to the level of your clients can be effective. If you look and act professional and strong, people will give you authority credits because of your style more than your substance

Recognitions, awards, and media publicity

Obviously, someone with a Nobel prize in physics has authority as a physicist.  If you win multiple awards in the local design or building competition, however, you may have more important authority for your own business. Recognition and publicity in relevant publications and media can also generate authority. (Here, again, the authority can be genuine, or purchased — some awards programs are set up on a pay-to-play model, as are some publications. Here, you are paying your marketing dollars to create the illusion of authority.)

While “faking it until you make it” may be ethically questionable, I wouldn’t question the importance of achieving authority and letting your current and potential clients know you have it. Ultimately, the highest forms of authority are earned by genuine achievement and contributions. This can be a true delayed gratification exercise.

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