Jan 18

Trust, transparency and 2021

We’re heading into a very uncertain week here in the United States. As President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are set to be sworn in, escalating political tensions and the state of deep unease have many of us in a state of fear. We have all been put to the test this past year, pushing the limits of what our minds can manage. As many memes have suggested, it’d be nice to go more than a month without witnessing another historical event.

According to Edelman’s most recent trust barometer, the two top rising concerns amongst consumers are physical health and the future. Set against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and deeply troubling rhetoric and actions in Washington, this seems to tap into our collective pulse. The same study, as well as research from Forrester, also highlights the importance of building trust now more than ever (a phrase I was hoping we could retire in 2021).

As communication pros, our job is to bridge a gap between brands and consumers. We find ways to engage meaningfully with our stakeholders in an effort to motivate them to act. To be effective, we must identify a problem they have and create trust to allow us to fix it. Sometimes that problem is the desire for something new and shiny. Other times, that problem is more complex, such as the desire to lift up a community. With consumer trust at an all-time low, now is a good time to think about how we are building trust.

We often talk about corporations or organizations as “its” – nonliving entities. And while grammatically speaking this may be true, they are made up of many living beings who have thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears. What is an organization but the sum of the people who make it go? Bringing the people who make an organization tick to the forefront is one of my favorite ways to break down the barriers between a brand and its stakeholders. Emphasizing real humans in public relations and advertising efforts helps bring, well, humanity to a brand.

Transparency is a word floated around a bit too often these days. Everyone says they want it, no one knows what it means and many aren’t too keen when the cry for transparency comes hurtling their way. To me, the concept of transparency centers around dialogue – that is, creating a conversation with your stakeholders. Finding ongoing ways – whether big or small – to bring people to the “inside” can do wonders to build trust for your brand.

To be successful with any goal, you need to commit. It shouldn’t be a box you simply check off; instead, it should be ingrained in your thinking. As you go about your marketing efforts this year, I would encourage you to think about how you can not only build trust with your brand but help to rebuild the trust severely lacking in this country. I’ve said this before, but I think it is worth repeating, as communicators, we have a duty to put accurate information into the market. It’s a true shame I need to qualify that further by adding “non-fear-inducing.”

2020 was rough. 2021 is shaping up to present its own unique challenges. Being kind to one another may be the best first thing we can do to rebuild trust.

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