Credibility comes from specificity

Which of these sentences sounds more credible?

  • They say Xbox 360’s are selling like hotcakes
  • I read an article on this morning that said Microsoft planned to sell 3 million Xbox 360’s within 90 days of today’s launch. Here’s the link.

    There’s a simple reason #2 is the obvious choice: credibility comes from specificity. And when people fail to be specific in their communication – both interpersonally and en masse – other people won’t listen. For example, think about the last time you heard someone say one of the following phrases followed by a “fact”:

    Oh really? They did? Well, who’s they? The media? The bloggers? Your parents? A group of kids you overheard at Starbucks?

    I HEARD…
    You did? When? Where? From whom? And did you actually “hear” it on the radio from, say, Paul Harvey, or did you just read it somewhere?

    Really? He did? Well, can I trust him? Does he have a PhD? Is he usually right? Should I email him to confirm?

    Whose research? Did you do it? Was it from a University? Or did you just watch an interivew on CNN and quote someone else who said, “Research proves…”?

    You get the point.

    I’ve been publishing books, articles and blogs for the past three years now. And I have no choice but to be specific in my facts or examples, for several reasons. First of all, my editors would kill me. Secondly, my readers wouldn’t believe me. Lastly, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself as a professional if I used phrases like “they say.”

    And it’s not just in print, too. As a professional speaker, one of the first and most valuable lessons I learned was “On stage, credibility comes from specificity.”

    Here’s my favorite example. I have this thing about remembering dates. Seriously, it’s Rain Man-esque. And I’m not sure why, but I can remember the date of every concert I’ve attended, every speech I’ve given and every city I’ve visited.

    But dates have an amazing power to help your customers (or audience members, as it were) connect with your story, fact or example. And that is what builds their confidence in your credibility as a trustworthy, authentic and approachable communicator.


    What are the three most important dates in your company’s timeline?

    * * * *
    Scott Ginsberg
    Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag

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