Monday, December 17, 2012

Losing Credibility in the Instant Information Age


Did this picture of Morgan Freeman make you want to read this post? Or was it because you know ME, and want to read what I'm about to write?

By now, many of you may have read the following statements regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. If not, check out the Inquisitr article here.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with the statements is inconsequential. The fact that they were attributed to Morgan Freeman, however, is not, particular for those of us who speak.

First point of business for any of us on Social Media, of course, needs to be vetting our material. It's easy to share something with a click - but the few extra seconds it takes to google or Snopes something is worth it.

But let's shift gears a bit. As speakers, our credibility is a HUGE issue. We work to be experts in our topics. To build success within our messages. And often, perhaps too often, rely on borrowed credibility within our presentations by quoting famous people to support our claims. Some speakers borrow stories that are just 'handed down' from generation to generation - all in the name of lending credence to our points.

It can be effective, but it can also be lazy. It can be perfect, but it can also be too good to be true. We may be doing what we've always done, and always seen done, but we may now be doing it wrong.

Sourcing our non-original material and quotes has always been ethical and important, but in today's lightning fast information age, its essential. Misquoting someone, using incorrect attribution, or using stories that are just plain false will ruin our reputations before we're even off the stage as people tweet and facebook about our ineptitude.

Protect your credibility, and the credibility of our industry. Start by using more original material. Find examples within the company or group you're speaking to, by doing your pre-speech research. And, when you do quote Einstein, make sure it was he who said it, and not, say, Morgan Freeman.

What do YOU think? Do speakers borrow too much? Have you ever seen a speaker misquote or outright steal their material? Please, comment below, or on Facebook/Twitter/etc.

(another story on the origin of the quote:


  1. You are absolutely correct. This weekend, I gave up after the third time I had to tell someone on Facebook that this was NOT in actually said by Morgan Freeman and should not be shared forward.

    1. I replied to a few, but yeah, becomes tiresome. Same with all the other various copyright and privacy scams, and facebook will donate a dollar, etc, crapola.

  2. I couldn't even find the original quote or who said it, but I tried really hard! I would never share without first validating the quote. It's a huge credibility buster when speakers misquote or misrepresent the material they're quoting. And just because it's easy to click "share" on Facebook doesn't mean we should do it without researching first.

    1. I was surprised by how many of my friends jumped on this. I might have too, but I A. didn't want to really post about CT, and B. wondered why he'd come out so strongly. Oh, and C. figured he was busy dating his niece or granddaughter or something....

  3. I think you should do a guerrilla marketing campaign driven by Morgan Freeman instructing people to not listen to you on social media. Reverse psychology. Then millions of people will be like "Hey, I don't have to listen to Morgan Freeman, I'm going to check out this Hopkins guy myself." We'll then follow this up with a Morgan Freeman led campaign stating that you are one of the nicest, most authentic voices in America and everyone should follow you on social media. Double win.

  4. Sounds like a great idea, Jonathan :) Thanks for the comments and kudos.



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