OC Emberton

Reputation bootstrapping

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People often wonder how they gain credibility when they have none.

If you’re Brad Pitt’s hairdresser, no-one cares how you became that person. The statement alone  conveys authority. “Brad Pitt’s hairdresser!” people will say excitedly to each other, as they line up for your services.

Maybe all you did was assist with cutting Brad’s hair, once. Maybe you worked on a movie set, and you were called in unexpectedly to help shave his head in two minutes flat. Maybe you cut his hair and he shouted abuse at you afterwards for what a terrible job you did.

Still counts.

This is the ugly truth of reputation bootstrapping. A soundbite like “New York Times bestselling author” will sell more books; so much so, that authors will buy huge volumes of their own books just to tip the scales. Once their sales are high enough, the lie becomes the truth.

We’ve all heard you should fake it till you make it. That might make you feel dirty. But I can promise you, almost everyone who ever got anywhere played this game at some point. It’s one reason why starting up is hard.

Richard Branson, as a child, decided to sell advertising in his nameless magazine to some big name banks. He called up one – call them Bank A – and told them their arch-rival Bank B had just taken out a full page ad, would they like to match it? (Bank B had done no such thing). Once Bank A ordered, he called up Bank B and did the same.

If you’re still seeking authority, here are some ideas:

Whatever authority you can earn will compound. You’ll forever be “Brad Pitt’s hairdresser”. Once you win that first name, it’s much easier to win another; soon you’ll have the genuine credibility you sought in the first place.

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