Thursday, March 31, 2011

Platform vs. Credentials: Not a Minor Point

by Matt Sinclair

While reading through agent blogs recently, I came upon a wonderful distinction that sums up quite well one of the challenges that frustrates writers of nonfiction: Platform vs. Credentials.

What's the difference? Well, let's put it this way. Say you're the president of a small company that produces widgets. You started in the field as an unpaid intern in widget making, got a full-time job after graduating from Widget Tech (Go Wingnuts!), and worked your way up the ranks to be chief widget operator and finally president. You're a big wig in your little widget world. Congrats. You have credentials.

But do you have a platform? Not necessarily.

You see, the thing is, you're running a small regional operation that until recently was struggling to make payroll, remains virtually unknown outside of the widget world, and makes decent widgets but is not recognized as an innovator. To make matters worse, you cancelled your subscription to Widget World Times ten years ago. I mean, who does that?

You don't have a sturdy platform. As far as the widget world is concerned, you're a dinosaur. In fact, if it weren't for your son, you might be facing difficult decisions about the future of your little company.

Your son, who you hired a year ago after he earned his masters in widget management and who followed at your heels since he was a kid, not only gets a subscription to Widget World Times, he's been published dozens of times in its competitor publications and has a column in the Widget Gazette. In addition, his blog,, is quickly becoming a must-read for the widget cognoscenti. Not only does he boast of his hundreds of blog followers, his frequent Twitter posts get retweeted regularly by the 4200+ followers he has there. And comments? Jeez, he pays your teenage son $10 a week (and supplies him with a six-pack of beer on occasion—but you didn't hear that from me) to moderate the comments on Widgetwatcher. Not only that, but they both comment on other widget-related sites and blogs. Heck, your son's Twitter ID "Widgetwonder" is known throughout the industry.

Your son is developing a platform. If he can help you grow that company, then his platform becomes even stronger. Because he doesn't quite have the credentials yet. Maybe you and he could write a book together.

Does that help? Do you have credentials but no platform? What have you done to develop either? Please share.


Caroline Hagood said...

Glad to see this great post here as well.

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Caroline. Thanks for commenting. There's a lot of great stuff on the site, and more to come!