According to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, the USA is facing a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions.
We’re living through increasingly polarizing times. Neutral ground and indifferent opinions are few and far between in a landscape that seems to encourage us to feel strongly about things at every turn. Fire up Twitter and you can spout any opinion you want. You’ve got information at your fingertips and breaking news by the second. It’s no wonder that 7 in 10 people are worried about false information and fake news with the rise of bots and misinformation campaigns.
When we’ve even got individuals in the highest of positions using untruths and dubious claims to discredit opponents and critics, truth has never been a more important social currency.
When your brand deals in truth, honesty and facts, it can cultivate a loyal customer base that sees you as the most sensible brand in the room.
According to Edelman, this year has seen the “most dramatic general population decline the Trust Barometer has ever measured,” and every institution is facing a hit. This is across every age, region and gender too. Consumers and the public at large are nervous, anxious and more suspicious than years previous.
What’s this down to? There’s been no shortage of news stories and events that have demanded Americans to “take a side.” We seem to be losing nuance in our news. Round-the-clock news cycles mean that we have to instantly react to vast swathes of information, instead of viewing all the available evidence and facts. People want solutions, answers and opinions in an instant. Is this a reaction to the change in the ways we consume media and communicate with each other through social media?
Sixty-three percent of the U.S. general population is finding it more difficult to determine what information is true. In these confusing times, business has a big role to play and can help to provide clarity and factual information. Businesses can benefit from being calm, rational voices of reason and offer a confidence that consumers are desperate to find in institutions.
How Brands Can Create Trust
At a fundamental level, businesses can create trust by dealing in fact-based, honest and authentic messaging. Being upfront and transparent with customers should be a basic requirement of any business. If you’re not prepared for that, then you’re doing your customers a disservice.
Gaining tighter ad controls can be a technical way of ensuring that your business doesn’t muddy its principles and end up on harmful, disingenuous sites that are associated with fake news or unethical practices. Work on getting your advertising in front of customers that appreciate the context and in places where it makes sense to be.
Monitor ad placements and create robust advertising guidelines with your agencies, so there’s accountability when online ads end up in ill-suited places. Your business might find that it’s better to take more manual control, instead of leaving it to agencies.
Your business must be prepared to align what it says with what it does. Match up your principles with real-world examples and evidence for your customers to see. Create expectations for your customers through your marketing and deliver those expectations with the product. A simple product design and experience that’s executed properly can be one of the most powerful demonstrations of truth.
Marketing and communicating your products in an exaggerated and inauthentic way will only create disappointment further down the line. Be realistic and sell in an honest way. This is increasingly relevant for data handling too. Telling customers how you’re using their data to enhance their experience is better than pretending otherwise.
Encourage customers to identify with your brand by seeing you act in a decent and human way. Put integrity at the center of your business operations. When things go wrong, hold your hands up and be transparent. Be inclusive and market your brand in a way that is open, honest and values customers.
As Edelman puts it, “speaking up requires courage and conviction,” and building a business that rests on foundations of trust and authenticity is a form of public duty in tumultuous times. Your customers are involved in a mutual relationship with your business, and it’s a privilege for you to be a part of that, so value their loyalty and deliver them the respect they deserve through trustful practices and honest talk.