business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

A man I never met and most of you have never heard of died recently. His name was Jim Vance and his death was mourned far and wide in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area where I live because for decades he was a household figure.

Jim Vance, you see, was the anchor of a local news broadcast and he was so popular that his ratings usually outranked all the competition combined.

In hearing all the tributes about him, what came through was his credibility - hardly an easily found commodity these days. No matter what the topic - news, politics, sports or even fashion - he came through as real and believable.

The secret to his popularity was pretty simple: People trusted him. As was said after his passing, people watch the news to actually watch the people delivering the news. People loved and trusted Vance and never stopped watching.

In our hyper-competitive world, there’s some wisdom to be gained from that. It may be that people will like shopping with people who they trust and who seem to have the credibility to help them understand complex issues and solve life’s problems.

For instance, consider the a story that the Washington Post ran last week, contradicting one of those scientific “facts” that I thought I understood.

The story concerned the use of antibiotics and how much patients really need take. The wisdom I’ve always heard (and likely you too) is that it’s important to always take a complete dose of any antibiotic. Anything less allows the remaining bugs in the body to grow stronger by surviving and, just like that, one has helped create superbugs.

Apparently we’re all wrong. The conventional wisdom on antibiotic use came from a speech given long ago by scientific legend Alexander Fleming. Only Fleming’s comments, according to current scientists, were based on anecdotal evidence and not scientific fact and study. Kind of like some of the rules my mom used to give me.

The emerging wisdom among today’s scientists is that some bugs definitely need the full dose, but many don’t. At least that’s the emerging idea and I’m sure it will be contradicted soon.

Here’s why I think this is relevant. Shoppers are constantly bombarded with news like this update on antibiotics. The vast majority, like me, aren’t scientists and really don’t understand what we are being told. Information comes from media, Facebook posts and countless other directions (even our moms) and somehow we are supposed to sort through it all and make sense.

Frankly, we don’t have the time or know-how. What’s more, we are all getting increasingly skeptical. Too often, we’ve been told that something is the best or worst thing for us to eat only to learn months or years later that we had it completely wrong.

The bacteria may not grow, but our confusion and skepticism sure does.

And in that knowledge gap we may find opportunity. More than ever businesses need find a way to be a trusted partner to our shoppers. We need provide them credible and consumable information that helps simplify the complex and offers usable guidance on a range of issues. Plus we need to position knowledgeable people in our companies as their trusted resources on a range of issues from recipes to health.

After all, the more reasons they have to trust us, the more reasons they have to shop us.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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