Trust in Crisis — How to Remain Trustworthy in 2017

Edelman published their annual Trust Barometer that outlines the public’s trust levels in various industries. Having started in pharma advertising, I was accustomed to seeing both pharma and advertising as low trust winners… but, I was shocked to see that 2017 was title “Trust in Crisis.” Apparently, everyone is struggling.

But, looking back, the previous year has been VERY confusing for a lot of people. With all this turmoil in the world, consumers are developing massive trust issues.

The Anatomy of Trust

There are several ways to look at trust. Personally, I believe that Brene Brown does an excellent explanation in her talk “The Anatomy of Trust.” TLDR: Brown says trust is built in the most insignificant moments. After months or years, you begin to trust friends, coworkers, and significant others because of their small “marble-jar moments” as Brown calls them.

Trust, however, can be taken away with one distrustful action — no matter the size. And, as we’re seeing in the world, once that trust is broken, it’s very difficult to get it back.

We can apply Brown’s very localized trust research to the masses. As a collective, we have a metaphorical marble jar that we use to indicate how much trust we devote to any given person or organization.

Being Trustworthy

Knowing the anatomy of trust above, it sounds very easy to remain trustworthy, right? Interestingly, I’ve seen many companies fumble their marble jar moments because they’re worried or scared about how their response or action could make someone unhappy. These decisions are made from fear, not principle.

Trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” This definition doesn’t mean that people need to like you… they just need know the truth you are trying to tell.

For examples, let’s look at Starbucks. They took an oath to be inclusive of everyone — sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, religious preference, etc. And, Starbucks is one of the most trusted companies in the world with their fair share of controversy because of it.

Starbucks was thrown in hot water for openly supporting LGBT in 2013. And, they stirred the (coffee) pot again in 2015 when they made generic holiday cups. These seemingly insignificant moments were just subtle reminders of Starbucks’ stance on inclusion. For their consumers, these were strong steps in securing trust in their brand. Sure, they got pushback from some people, but those people had political agendas, not trust issues.

What Does Trust Look Like In 2017?

No matter who you are, you’ve been affected somehow by the strange series of events — the Trump administration, climate change, terror attacks, Syria — and those are just hot topics from the past couple months.

As a brand in 2017, it’s important to know your truth and be genuine with that. In the year up ahead, you will be faced with plenty of “marble jar moments” that allow you to build trust with your consumers. Use those moments as stepping stones, however insignificant they may be.

You may not need to speak out about every public issue, but I encourage you be trustworthy — reliable in character, ability, strength, and truth — when the opportunity arises.

Marketing Advisor and Speaker. Read more at benjaminpreston.com.

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