Mike Connell

The Big Question: How Are You Building Trust?

By: Mike Connell | September 28, 2018 | 
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building trustWe talk a lot about trust.

We’ve written about client trust and how to build it, and we recently published an article about what trust means, especially when “fake news” is a thing.

The latter referenced a great Warren Buffett quotation:

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

So, we thought we would put that very question to our Spin Sucks Community.

When it comes to trust, what are you going to do differently?

Has trust come up at all in your own business? With any of your clients? What have you done, and what would you do differently going forward?

Building Trust: Relationships (and Scotch)

For some, building trust, maintaining it, is about relationships. Real ones.

From Brian Lenney:

When dealing with clients, trust is garnered through *actual relationships*.

You show up. Meet deadlines. Initiate contact. You never ghost on people, and you keep your word. This is nothing new.

For a client to trust you, they need to see you as Alfred and themselves at Batman.

This means that you’re their Trusted Advisor who goes out of your way to show them you have their back. And when you schedule a call or a meeting – *do it face-to-face*.

If you’re remote, turn the webcam on and BE PRESENT.

This is how you build and nurture relationships.

Also, an annual bottle of Scotch still goes a long way, even in the 21st Century.

Batman. Scotch. We may as well end this right here. Brian wins!

I would have Alfred bring you over a bottle of Macallan, but you neglected to include your @twitter handle. Next time…

Building Trust: Blockchain and Gamification

From a firm handshake and a dram of whiskey to technology. That’s how we roll.

Abhishek Shankar shares his thoughts on crowdsourced, transparent systems:

Crowdsourced information systems like Wikipedia were a great stride in disseminating information.

However, the lack of veracity is a fatal flaw in the model.

Without incentives for truth and penalty for falsehood, the crowdsourced model has limited value.

Even the most professional and honest individuals in centralized systems are subject to human frailty and bias, whether conscious or not.

Systems that simply employ crowdsourcing without a veracity mechanism have limited ability to respond to attacks, and no way to do so that is not a centralized mechanism.

A transparent and incentivized crowd wisdom mechanism solves this.

We need a “wisdom of crowds” gamified model with blockchain-based collusion and manipulation protocols that place those incentives firmly in the ecosystem.

Real people doing real work in a competitive environment, that stake their reputation directly to the work they produce, solves the missing veracity component in an information service.

A system which seeks to establish a Nash Equilibrium among the game participants such that only by acting within game boundaries are the participants rewarded for their labor.

The system must also intend to create antagonistic relationships between some participants to create a series of checks and balances to reduce system gaming.

A few good blockchain-based gamified platform trying to do this are: Trive, Redpen, and Verity.network

Building Trust: Transparency

Speaking of transparency, Alistair Clay is all about actions speaking louder than words:

It might be odd for a PR professional to say this, but I care less and less about what my clients SAY, and more about what they DO.

Trust is based on our actions, not our words, especially in the era of fake news where talk is cheap.

The greatest lesson I have learned is to encourage my clients to focus on their behavior as an organization and then build a comms strategy that evidences these values in action.

Businesses that want to thrive cannot afford to have a gap between what they say they do and what they actually do. In an era of unprecedented transparency, they will get found out and trust will vanish.

So what am I doing differently? I’m empowering my clients to drop the fear and be willing to share the day to day reality of life in their business, warts and all.

This builds trust faster than anything else.

Building Trust: DNA

Similarly, Jon Bloom insists trust needs to be baked into an organization’s DNA:

Building trust should be in every agency’s DNA and incorporated into client conversations, especially now.

We’re living in the Trust Economy, but how can brands build trust? Through transparency.

We’ve found that the two go hand in hand.

A transparent communications program is vital for a brand’s success in the Trust Economy.

Buyers are thirsty for knowledge.

They want to know everything about your brand from why you decided to take your company public to what happened at the company BBQ yesterday.

This is because they want a deeper connection to your brand.

They want to know that the brand they’re purchasing from not only stays true to its values, but those values match their own.

Knowing that builds trust between buyers and brands.

We recommend transparent communications programs share the following best practices to help build a brand’s trust equity:

Establish core values, communicate those values to your audience, make sure your claims are supported, personalize and humanize engagement, take feedback personally, avoid the hard sell and embrace a crisis through transparent dialogue.

Building Trust: Checks and Balances

For all the fake news and unsubstantiated research and reporting out there, we don’t necessarily want to let “one” proverbial apple (or a few million?) spoil the bunch.

There are credible sources out there, and Lauren Crain feels that having expert oversight is not only one way to make sure the material you’re producing makes the grade, but it also forces you to raise the bar measuring the quality of your work:

We realize that the public is becoming more skeptical of news organizations and brands alike.

We understand this skepticism and welcome it.

A necessary part of the world’s evolution is a focus on critical thinking, and no longer taking facts at face value.

In an effort to continue providing content that our audience can trust, we’ve begun citing our sources from credible websites.

We’ve also created a board of MDs that have vetted our content for accuracy.

We hope that this will help our audience realize that we have a vested interest in them receiving the best most accurate content possible.

We’ve already received messages from readers, thanking us for the update; they stated that it helped to secure confidence in them that we can be trusted.

Building Trust: Know Your Audience

From Heather Feimster:

I highly recommend the book The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey.

It gives a truly tangible way for business/numbers/type A people to see/understand the benefits of Trust as more than a “touchy-feely” asset (High Trust = Faster Speed + Lower Cost).

But I digress!

I work in-house as the only comms person at an engineering consulting firm. Trust is spoken of frequently because our business relies on contracts with major oil and gas owner-operators.

If they don’t trust us, then they aren’t going to bring us in on their 6- and 7-figure projects.

One challenge to messaging in today’s digital age is that you can no longer assume your audience will only hear the message intended for them.

Information gets shared and forwarded and linked, and soon a non-targeted group is consuming a message that may or may not make sense to them.

For us, this happens when we take for granted that everyone else is also an engineer.

During the Q&A on a sponsored industry webinar recently, one question was literally just “what does that acronym mean?”

Whoa—that was eye-opening.

Our audience had a different background than we expected – so did our use of technical jargon make them feel like we knew what we were talking about?

Or did it feel like we were talking down to them? And how did that affect their opinion of us? (the presenter handled it marvelously so that helped a ton!)

The other point I would make is that it’s easy to want to be witty and funny because people engage with that, and if it jives with your brand and is *authentic* then Godspeed.

But, as we know, sarcasm doesn’t always translate well.

What is funny to one group is offensive to another.

So we’ve found that we are very selective on what we retweet or share on company media—an ill-thought-out retweet that criticizes our client’s industry could have unintended repercussions—and they won’t care how “funny” the one-liner was in the moment.

Building Trust: Check the Barometer

From Greg Brooks:

Love the topic—my whole practice is built around creating, building and maintaining trust, as it says in screaming-Jesus type on my home page.

One thing that gets lost in a lot of general PR discussions about trust—but that we’re hyper-aware of over in the world of policy and politics—is that you don’t have to be absolutely trusted.

You need only be trusted more than your competitors.

That’s both a much easier lift and it opens the door to moving trust in others downward alongside your efforts to build trust in your own brand.

Edelman’s research has been very good in this area and if you haven’t really dived deep into their annual Trust Barometer, you should. We know, for example:

  • Globally, more major-market societies are generally distrusting than trusting.
  • No country suffered a greater loss in trust regarding major institutions (gov, NGOs, media, business) during 2017 than the U.S.
  • In fact, across both well-informed and uninformed swaths of the public within the U.S., you are beating the odds—sometimes by a lot—if you can crack a 50 percent level of trust.
  • Notably for our work: Trust in journalism is up, but trust in platforms is down, particularly in the U.S.

Building Trust with Spin Sucks!

Editorial Note: We did not pay, prod, or pressure Craig Birhle to provide this response…

Earlier this week our management team got to discuss some preliminary results of a national survey of wildlife and outdoor values. Part of the survey dealt with trust in government agencies in general, and state wildlife agencies in particular.

Our agency, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, ranked number one in the country for public trust at 77 percent, which is certainly nice to know.

But, as Mr. Buffett wrote, we’re only five minutes away…

There are a lot of reasons for the ranking beyond what role our communications team might play.

But, I will say that since I started following Spin Sucks more than seven years ago, there have been many occassions where we have discussed this blog’s principles. They have also periodically served as reinforcement for some of the things we try to do. Sometimes even in the face of internal resistance.

I’ll be sharing this with our leadership team next week… perfect timing.

Thanks, Craig! Let us know how it goes.

Up Next: The Future of Traditional Media Relations

We were having a discussion in the Spin Sucks Community about the questions we would ask Gini Dietrich if we had the chance.

Aside: We do have that chance! Gini is going to be airing an “Ask Gini” podcast episode in the near future!

We received a number of questions. Too many. So, I thought I would cherry pick some!

One noted that many of our largest, most influential publications/media organizations are either dying off or being bought up and rolled into larger empires (notably, Marc Benioff and TIME, Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post).

A good thing for those publications, the journalists working for them, and their loyal readers.

But traditional media can’t rely on the beneficence of billionaires.

Add to that the proliferation of online publications and a possible redefining of what counts as “media.”

A prolific YouTuber, Twitcher (love that word), and/or Instagrammer can now fall within the media category.

Begging the next Big Question:

What is the future of traditional media relations?

You can answer here, in our free Spin Sucks Community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

About Mike Connell


Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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