Do you really have the authority?
Fergus Stoddart
This is a post by Fergus Stoddart

How often do you begin listening to someone and then stop paying attention because you don’t believe what they’re saying? It happens all the time, both at work and the pub.

It’s no different when brands start creating content.

In order to gain the respect and trust of its audience, a brand has to establish authority in its field. The media landscape is cluttered with loads of similar content, so in order to stand out a brand needs to prove itself as the source of truth.

Some brands already have this authority—they’ve been reliable sources in their fields for a long time. Think of Dymocks advising customers on books or P&O Cruises telling stories about travel. It’s believable.

Others can establish authority by buying it, earning it through sponsorship, or borrowing it. I recently spoke at a conference on this topic and referred to content marketing brands Johnson & Johnson, Red Bull and Amex.

J&J bought its authority when it purchased Baby Center in 2001. But it didn’t stop there. As Tina Sharkey, who used to run BabyCenter, says, it gained the trust of mums by being “remarkably right”. Using information from medical experts and a panel of mums, J&J became the national authority on parenting.

Red Bull earned its authority by sponsoring adrenalin-pumping sports. For years it ploughed money into extreme sports and eventually reached a point where people would listen when Red Bull talked snowboarding or base-jumping. Only then could it begin to create events and build their media empire.

Amex borrowed its authority by leveraging trusted voices in small business media on its site OPEN Forum. While confident in its financial products, Amex had to borrow authority in marketing and HR to gain traction. It did so through Tumblr, republishing trusted authorities like Fast Company and Mashable.

So what’s the lesson? You have to prove yourself and gain the respect of your audience to establish authority in your field. It takes time, but it’s vital to a brand’s success.