How to Build Trust as a Competitive Advantage

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Credit: istockphoto.com/simarik

Credit: istockphoto.com/simarik

As professional communicators, we are acutely aware of the importance of trust in building our organizations’ reputations to achieve whatever outcome—commercial or otherwise—we’re seeking to achieve, whether it be increasing donations for a nonprofit, enhancing purchase consideration, changing people’s behavior for a government agency, or gaining positive word-of-mouth (and votes) if you’re a political party.

Trust is the currency of today’s socially connected world. It’s where the marketing and communication rubber hits the road.

But we can’t buy trust. It needs to be earned, and this is where so many brands come undone. Because earning trust is hard on many fronts, and it requires a whole-of-organization approach.

The erosion of trust comes from a fundamental misalignment of actions with words, from the top right through to the bottom of the organization. Critically, this can compound any existing lack of trust, leading to a widespread freefall of trust in a brand if the situation is not rectified.

While we can’t stop our clients (or the organizations we work for) from doing stupid things that can lead to the erosion of trust—although hopefully sometimes we are in a position to influence the outcome for the better—we can be strategic and proactive in how we help build public and stakeholder trust in our organization, and the people who run it.

Put another way, we shouldn’t be overly distracted by the things we have no control over, but instead focus on where we can have a genuine impact, and that is building a reputational garden bed from which to nurture and grow the green shoots of trust.

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