|The Death of Trust|
|Monday, 05 January 2009 18:56|
Trust is dead.
Amid the news of financial markets crashing, banks and lenders folding, and politicians fighting, the confidence and equity businesses have worked decades to build has given up the ghost.
We don’t trust politicians, we don’t trust major financial institutions – look what they’ve done to us and our investments. Consider the mayor of New York City – he’s going against everything he has supported in the past in order to serve another term (and another and another?)Because of the death of trust, corporations around the world will suffer.
Of course we still trust the mom-and-pop shops with which they have regular interaction. We trust their accountants and attorneys. We trust our friends and business associates. But we don’t trust large corporations any more – even though most have done nothing to deserve our wrath.
Businesses must fight to regain confidence. They must be honest and ethical — even transparent — in everything they do. And they must make sure their employees and customers/clients understand exactly what they are doing to regain the trust of those most important to them.
But it doesn’t end there. Businesses must follow ethics with authenticity. That’s kind of a freaky word, but I’ve come to understand what it means. When I use the word “authenticity,” I’m talking about matching what you say you care about — what your vision is — with significant actions that prove you mean it.
A friend of mine, regarded as a legend in public relations, said his favorite definition of public relations was one he learned from one of the great educators in our field.
Public relations is about doing the right things and then telling people about it.
That’s not my favorite definition, but in this case I think it applies.
It’s not enough for businesses to just “do the right thing” in today’s lack-of-trust environment. They must find effective ways to communicate their actions to the people who mean the most to them — employees, customers and business partners.
And if businesses aren’t totally engaged in understanding and taking advantage of the Internet’s new opportunities to communicate with these people, then they’ll be left behind.
Trust in products and services is often built or eroded on social networks. Research shows that online social network users were three times more likely to trust their peers’ opinions over advertising when making purchase decisions. Yet for many businesses these networks remain an untapped research.
Corporations are understandably skittish about hosting or even participating in conversations online. They fear that disapproving comments will lead to increased negativity among those “listening in” to the conversations. Legal departments are extremely worried about possible liability created through such conversations.
But online conversations are going to take place with or without the corporation’s participation. Isn’t it better to have a voice in them than to have no voice? When the major player is not part of the discussion, trust takes a hit.
Media feed the opinion and understanding of the general public. Whether in newsprint, on television or online, the corporate voice must be heard and understood.
The Internet has changed everything, and savvy corporations know just how to use it to enhance customer interactions.
Keep in mind that all communication should begin within the corporation. How can customers understand and trust a business’ messages when those who work for it don’t? Employees are a corporation’s chief ambassadors, and they must understand what their company is doing in light of this financial situation, how it is affecting business and what the company is doing to plan for the future.
That’s the key to resurrecting trust.
Five things all businesses should be doing right now to reestablish trust:
Espouse these tips to employees, customers and business partners and you’ll be miles ahead in regaining trust from those who make or break your business.