When E.F. Hutton Talks, People Listen — How to Build a Solid Reputation

Years ago, there was an advertising campaign by the brokerage firm E.F. Hutton. It went like this. Two guys were discussing their stock portfolios. One would say, “My broker says this is a good buy.” And the other would say, “Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says…” At this point, the camera would pan out to show that everyone in the room/on the airplane/in the restaurant/on the golf course had stopped what they were doing to hear what E.F. Hutton had to say. It was corny and repetitive, but also entertaining and effective.

Clearly, the ads imply that E.F. Hutton gave great advice. The question is, how did he earn his reputation? Asked another way? How did he build trust and respect? Here are a few ways to become like E.F. Hutton.

Get it right. Do your homework. Verify information. Proofread your writing. Give yourself enough time to ruminate on ideas so you can make the strongest possible arguments. Have others check your work.

Be consistent. Nothing builds trust as well as consistency. Let people know what they can expect from you and deliver it every time, rain or shine. Think about people you know well. What quality or trait defines them? What would you like your company to be known for? Pick a few qualities or traits for your business and make sure everyone in the organization knows they are non-negotiable.

Don’t over-promise. Most folks have heard the old adage, “It’s best to under-promise and over-deliver.” And yet, people over-promise all the time. If you promise to deliver something by Friday and it doesn’t arrive until Monday, you’ve proven you aren’t trustworthy. If you promise the delivery by Monday and deliver on Friday, you will be the first one called next time they need timely service. Set expectations; then jump out of your shoes to surpass them.

Admit and fix mistakes. As a public relations consultant, I often get push-back on this one, especially when lawyers are involved. But I have to say, it’s a rare situation where a heartfelt apology and making amends didn’t work wonders.

So, if you want to be like E.F. Hutton and have people listen, you’ll need to do what it takes to get things right, be consistent, deliver on your promises and fix your mistakes. (It also helps to have a fabulous advertising company.)