The Five Pillars of Digital Trust

In a cynical world, we need business bravery

September 20, 2017

Digital Trust

Who do you trust to tell it to you straight? In our increasingly suspicious and cynical society, the answer is hard to find.

The mainstream media, once dependable sources of truth, are no longer the go-to choice for most people. Trust in media has plummeted to 47%, hitting an all-time low in 17 countries, according to Edelman’s latest annual Trust Barometer.1

Our leaders fare even worse. Governments remain least credible on 29%. And the reputation of CEOs has dropped 12 points globally to an all-time low of 37%.

It almost goes without saying that financial institutions rate poorly in the trust stakes, lagging behind almost every other sector.

All this should worry us all as marketers, because trust is more than merely a nice-to-have option. It’s indispensable. As Clayton Ruebensaal, VP of Global Marketing at American Express, puts it: “Trust is the factor most closely associated with purchase intent.”

What to do when ‘official’ sources are dismissed?

So how can marketers hope to forge lasting connections with consumers in such a toxic atmosphere?

If there is a focus of trust today, it might be summed up as ‘anyone but officialdom’. Technical or academic experts now tie with ‘a person like myself’ as a credible source. Individuals are trusted over institutions, leaked information over press statements, and a company’s social media over traditional advertising.

Authenticity, in other words, is at a premium. That demands bravery of marketers, and of organisations more widely. It requires us to step out into communities, to engage in genuine dialogue, and to demonstrate our value to customers and to society.

It also means lifting the lid on our organisations, something Edelman’s Deidre Campbell describes as “enforcing radical transparency”. “That’s difficult in a highly regulated environment,” Campbell acknowledges, “but it’s essential.” And why not give people real insight, if we’re proud of what we do and our vision?

Five pillars of digital trust

We’ve condensed these actions into five practical steps that marketers can take in the digital realm to regain trust.

1. Add value at the moments that matter

Use digital tools to showcase your expertise to customers at exactly the right time in their professional or personal lives.

2. Communicate with a human voice

Let outsiders see what insiders already know about your business – using your best asset, your employees.

3. Be a part of the community

Go beyond traditional CSR, and prove your willingness to engage with society.

4. Be present, be constant

Build familiarity and trust in the good times – and the mundane, everyday times – so that customers know they can depend on you if things go wrong.

5. Think context as well as content

Protect your organisation from damage through association – a trap that’s claimed several major brands in recent times.

Visit our ‘Currency of Trust’ hub for more detailed insight and subscribe to our blog for guidance over the next few weeks, offering inspiration for rebuilding relationships with your customers.

1 Edelman Trust Barometer, 2017