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strategies & Musings

Trust In An Age of Anxiety

The 2017 Edelman’s Trust Barometer comes at a time when public trust may very well have a hit a new low.  The current political climate and the impact of Fake News have, in particular, played a deafening role in exacerbating any remaining trust in political, economic or social institutions.  According to the new Trust Barometer, “the emergence of a media echo chamber that reinforces personal beliefs while shutting out opposing points of view” has driven the emerging storm of distrust. 

However, we found a glimmer of good news for, according to the report, the business sector continues to carry a higher level of trust than any other entities and, within that sector, family businesses continue to enjoy a significant trust advantage. The report notes that 75% of respondents trust family business over non-family ones, globally, and 66% are willing to pay more for products or services offered by family businesses.

As a family business ourselves, we have understood over our 32 years, that trust doesn’t just happen simply by virtue of being family–owned.  Sure, there is a perception that family-owned businesses care more than a corporate entity, and therefore can be relied upon to offer better service.  But the bottom line is that it needs to be earned over the long term.  We have recognized and greatly valued the “trust advantage,” nurtured it and understood what it takes for trust to be sustainable among the many publics with whom we work.

 If one only relied on normal common sense, it would be easy to figure out what to do to earn trust in the first place and stay there.  But the hard part is consistency in actions, and incorporating those actions into the daily life of the agency.  It takes communicating frequently and honestly with whomever we do business, whether vendor, media or client.  It takes being real with clients and offering solutions that work, not just acquiescing or paying lip service because it is the path of least resistance; It takes having a “real live” person address a client’s anxiety, or coax a vendor to meet a deadline; or adhering faithfully to a media person’s concern about fact checking, as well as elevating their confidence that we will hold steadfast to a promised exclusive. Cumulatively it all makes a difference in trust level. 

It is about the little things: communicating consistently, not just in time of crisis or need, but that too; calling back or delivering at the promised hour, exactly; being unwavering in the professional viewpoint as to the best path for the client -- in other words, not be swayed into doing a client’s bidding and then be sorry; displaying ethical business practices in the community in which we do business, and the list goes on and on…

But above all, clients need to know that the agency will place their interests ahead of agency profits, even if, in the process, the agency will have to bear a temporary loss. There is a huge payback at the other end with raising the level of earned trust.

Building and sustaining trust doesn’t just happen.  It takes a consistent proactive posture…

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