There is more to "ethos" than you may think

Often in business communication, we think about ethos, one of the three artistic proofs Aristotle talked about in his famous work On Rhetoric (quick refresher: the other two being logos and pathos).  We hear people talk about a company’s ethos in the eyes of the public, or a manager’s ethos as part of being a strong leader.

We often simplify ethos to be translated to one word: “credible.” Most would say ethos is simply about appealing to an audience by demonstrating that you, the communicator, are credible, and that means your message is more persuasive to the audience. I guarantee if you ask several people at your workplace what “ethos” means, most of them will answer “credible” or “credibility” and stop there. Go ahead, you can try it. 
This interpretation of ethos as "credible" means, unfortunately, that we miss some more nuanced and important aspects of what it means to appeal to ethos.
While credibility is a piece of ethos, it does not capture Aristotle’s full definition of ethos.  According to Aristotle, there are three aspects of ethos: the communicator demonstrating good sense, good moral character, and goodwill toward the audience. As a reader, you might argue, “Yeah, and put those together and a communicator comes across as more credible.” You would be right, which is why credibility is a fine (basic) understanding of ethos. But today, let’s look more closely at just one of the ways Aristotle says one could appeal to ethos--demonstrating goodwill toward the audience.
This particular piece of ethos is one that is important to examine because of the relationship between communicator and audience is a little more complicated than we might first understand. Often, when we think of ethos, we think of the audience as assessing the communicator as either a credible person or not...but this aspect of appealing to ethos shows us how important it is for the communicator to first assess the audience and how the goal of this message can be beneficial for them…and then to express that (note the emphasis on actually expressing it, not just thinking it), therefore showing the communicator cares about the well-being of the audience and wants what is best for them. Some would say there are simpler ways to put this, perhaps simply asking yourself “what’s in it for them?” or “what’s the takeaway?” or, classically, “help me help you.”  
But I think demonstrating goodwill toward your audience is deeper than that. It isn't about a quick tagline or takeaway. It is shifting as a communicator from constant “me” thinking as the communicator to “you” thinking about the audience…and I don’t just mean in the big presentations or publications, but in the little ways we communicate daily in the workplace.
What would it look like if you tried to shift appealing to ethos to not simply being a blanket term of “credibility,” but an exercise in considering how what you want to get across as the communicator will actually impact and potentially benefit the audience? How could you demonstrate to your colleagues, boss, or clients that you are the type of person who considers them frequently, and how your efforts at work in some way benefits them?
Imagine sending a reminder out for a company meeting and instead of listing the “business we need to cover” you emphasize the ways the content of this meeting will help your colleagues with specific tasks coming up. Or imagine emailing a client to request that they send those documents but instead of making the message all about what you need from them, you point out the things you’ll be able to accomplish with those documents that will help that client.
Do you think that would have a positive impact not just on the effectiveness of your message, but maybe their view of you, period?

Try it for a week, and let us know your results.