The Art of Ethos: Establishing Expertise

Ethos1     What makes an effective communicator?  The  great Greek philosopher Aristotle laid the groundwork for modern public discourse, and the lessons he taught are still relevant and effective today.  He defined three important modes of persuasion, or rhetorical appeals:  ethos, logo, and pathos—ethical, logical, and emotional arguments. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at how these rhetorical strategies can aid us in more effective business communication and image. Let’s today explore some advice from Aristotle about ethos, and discover ancient solutions that work well in communications businesses today.

     Ethos is an appeal, from a speaker, writer, or presenter, to his or her own ethics, credibility, and authority. This is how you, as a communicator, establish that you are qualified to speak on a subject—that you know what you are doing—and that you can be trusted in the telling of it.  But how can you establish that authority?

     First, establish what you and your employees know.  

Consider the following:

  • Are you a notable figure in your field? Ethos2Do you hold an advanced degree in your area?  Do you own a successful company in the field?  Did you invent something, or write the manual? Are you often quoted by others?  If so, be sure to let your customers know.  Be sure there is biographical information which lists your credentials on your website, your social media profile, and your written promotional materials. Frame your degrees and hang them in your office or waiting room. List your title or degree letters on your business cards.
  • Appeal to Authority. Let other established authorities—professors, notable figures in the field, successful business people who offer the similar services—speak highly of you.
  • Offer Testimonies. In your promotional materials, be sure to quote other clients who are well pleased with you and your services. Run surveys and ask for feedback often to keep testimonies fresh and new.  Be sure to ask your clients’ permission before quoting them by name.
  • Promote the expertise of your employees. Be sure to let your clients know the qualifications of the team they will be working with. What are their degrees?  Do they have advanced training?  Have other customers been extremely pleased with their service? Do some specialize in one area of service while others specialize in another?  Do you match salespeople to clients based on what levels of expertise and experience they have with the types of needs that client has?  Be sure to let your customers know how knowledgeable, experienced, and qualified all the members of your team are.

      Of course, letting your clients know you are informed and qualified is only a piece of the ethos puzzle.  In upcoming blogs, we’ll discuss more ways ethos can help you better establish trust and help you communicate with your clients.   

 Challenge:  What do my clients know about my team and me?  What can I do to increase my profile of ethos?


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