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Trust: A Communicator’s Lifeline

Trust is that five letter word that is hard to build and easy to lose. On social media during last year’s PRSA conference, trust happened to be one of the most popular topics of conversation. Cision found more than 3,000 comments on social in reference to trust and last year’s PRSA International Conference.

As the communications industry prepares for this weekend and next week’s PRSA 2016 International Conference, the question is: How has the conversation around trust evolved over the past 12 months?

PRSA shared two great posts last year that drove much of the social discussion around trust. One based on research that showed why CEOs should be on Twitter to benefit investor perceptions and the second on why brands invest in building trust through shared community action based on a conference presentation by Coca-Cola Chief Sustainability Officer Bea Perez.

A crisis in trust

The through line of these two posts is that when brands are transparent and honest it provides a fighting chance to be trusted by the public.

The problem, though, is that trust is at its lowest level ever.

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer found only 51 percent of the general public trusts the business community, the same group trusts the media and government even less.

Trust is foundational to how we grow, both as communicators and the brands we serve. Building it, shaping it, and of course, the danger of losing it is a pillar in the work we do.

The lessons from these posts and the discussion each generated are threefold.

1. Timeliness and executive voices drive believability and positive perception.

When we share facts at the right time with an authentic voice behind them, people look at company issues in a more positive light.

Brooke Elliott, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Illinois, shared his research at PRSA, which found that when CEOs shared negative performance news, 49 percent of investors perceived the news as an isolated incident.

This is the power of transparency. A CEO sharing a negative event displays clarity and provides the appearance of accountability.

N-CO-1.1.5P Identifying-Opportunities-Issues-Keys-to-Monitoring-Traditional-Social-Media

2. Relationships are powerful.

Even the appearance of a relationship, such as what happens when a CEO engages with their audience on Twitter, can improve trust. When you scale this upward to a community level, as what Coca-Cola has done in its community engagement programs, brands can provide the right balance between earning profits and benefiting the world.

3. Deliver on your promises.

When we engage, we get feedback from our audience. It is the action that results from this feedback that actually builds trust. That’s how you build relationships and grow brands.

Listening alone has benefits from an internal growth perspective but displaying that a brand has learned something from the feedback provided is what the public is looking for. Show, don’t tell.

This year at PRSA’s conference in Indianapolis, communicators will share stories about how their brands performed on the public stage. And believe me when I tell you this: Trust will be at the center of their success.

Trust starts with listening to your audience. 

Monitoring traditional and social media goes beyond listening for brand mentions. Listen to what your industry is saying to unlock growth opportunities for your company. While a communications strategy that monitors both traditional and social media channels is the most effective, it can be the most difficult to actually implement and automate.

Download Identifying Opportunities & Issues: Keys to Monitoring Traditional & Social Media for monitoring strategies that will help you connect with customers.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada.

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