In the words of social entrepreneur and author Bryant McGill, “When trust is lost, everything is lost.”
From government enquiries into banks to innumerable privacy violations by tech giants and systemic moral failure in social institutions, is it any wonder trust has plummeted a full 10% in the past 12 months according to the Edelman Trust Index.
The implications of this are enormous when you consider over 60% of Millennials will consider a brand’s reputation and social credibility when choosing who to buy from or work for.
Beyond the natural instinct to foster positive brand equity, the business case for purpose-driven, values-based and trust-generating practices is hard to ignore. Consider the fact that brands that have a clear sense of meaning and social responsibility have outperformed the stock market by 120% over the last 15 years.
Sentiment analysis and sheer economics makes it very clear: consumers, employees and the broader community are looking to engage with organizations of character.
So how can a business or brand establish, maintain or win trust back once it is lost? Here are 4 key ingredients:
- Credibility – This first ingredient goes to the very core of believability and reliability. When communicating with those inside and outside of the organization, are you credible?
Such credibility is generally a function of authenticity (are you real), veracity (is it true) and social proof (what are others saying).
- Consistency – Building trust is always a long-game. It is a function of messaging that is dependable and culture that is demonstrated over time.
In addition, interactions with an organization must be consistent too. For instance, having a great customer experience with a business one week and a bitterly disappointing one the next week will erode confidence with breath-taking efficiency.
- Clarity of purpose – Research shows that profit maximization is rarely, if ever, a driving purpose for enduring companies and trusted organizations. Speaking to this point, Elizabeth Murdoch has argued that “profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster” and that companies and their leaders need to
“reject the idea that money is the only effective measure of all things”. She added that an absence of purpose could be one of the most dangerous things in a capitalistic world.
- Congruence – The final ingredient for building trust centres on the importance of ensuring that an organization’s practices, policies and behaviour are aligned with non-negotiable values.
The moment an organization compromises on these values, the seeds of distrust are irrevocably sown. Innovation without integrity will always end badly and it takes courage to hold fast to commitments that may prove costly in the short term. After all, a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.
In an age where trust deficits abound, the opportunity for organizations and brands of character to win the battle for hearts, minds and loyalty are equally sizable. Now is the moment to be clear on what you stand for, to hold your ground and reaps the rewards of doing so.