The Tools You Need to Rebuild Trust with Your Audiences

A human voice, a higher purpose and storytelling skills for a new age. These are among the tools brands will need to re-establish lasting bonds with their customers.

October 24, 2017

The Currency of Trust

Who do you trust? Beyond your immediate network, where could you turn for pure motives, transparent dealings and dependable facts?

A couple of generations ago, many people might have answered that question by pointing to major institutions – public bodies, reliable brands, the touchstone media outlets.

Not anymore. As participants in our recent webinar ‘The Currency Of Trust: How marketers should bridge the trust divide in reputation, media and marketing’ heard, 2017 was the first year of Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer in which trust slumped across all four big pillars of society – NGOs, business, media and government.

This is surely the biggest issue facing marketers today. Trust isn’t merely a nice bonus. It’s the basis of purchasing intent and the foundation of any long-standing customer relationship and not forgetting, it has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Wanted: a human voice

Trust in financial services, for example, has been improving steadily in recent years. However, it started from a very low base, as Edelman’s Deidre H. Campbell, one of our webinar panelists, pointed out.

“Financial services companies have been working to rebuild trust with stakeholders, but the reality is that the financial sector is still the least trusted,” she said.

According to Deidre, Edelman’s financial clients are increasingly seeking help to find a “human voice” to help them connect with customers. The industry’s background of institutional language puts it at a disadvantage here against other retail brands.

Ditch the suit

Marketers often chafe against that kind of arcane jargon and the legal and compliance requirements that exist within their industry. That’s a frustration shared by another of our panelists, Frank Cooper, Chief Marketing Officer at BlackRock.

According to Frank, the sector must exercise “a newer muscle” to become more relatable and responsive.

“Historically, we wanted to present ourselves as the expert in the suit. But being empathetic, and stripping down complex things into terms people can understand, is the pathway to trust,” he said.

Exposure to social media has led people to expect a more inviting and participative communications style, Frank believes. He thinks brands need to take storytelling tips from firms like Buzzfeed, where he worked previously.

“At Buzzfeed, they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about long-form story arcs across multiple platforms,” he pointed out. “They take a small topic and pitch it in a way that invites people to either share it or enter the conversation.”

Real talk, real clear

Chase is one provider that is striving to break away from the ‘suited expert’ model and make direct, straightforward connections with customers.

Its Chief Brand Officer, Susan Canavari, spelled out the down-to-earth principles by which the company operates: “Real life – we try to find the extraordinary in the ordinary; real talk – we talk like our customers do; really useful – customer servicing, not self-servicing; very clear – we try to keep things simple.”

As Susan emphasized, making that approach a reality is down to Chase’s 250,000 staff. “It’s important that our employees don’t just believe in that, but actually live it,” she said.

Indeed, the role of employees in enhancing trust can’t be overestimated. Edelman has shown that financial services staff are the keenest of any sector to be advocates of their companies’ message.

And with 55% of people now putting more faith in individuals than in institutions, the human faces of your organization have never been more pivotal to success.

‘Business can do more than government’

Chase’s stated mission is to help each customer make the most of their money. As an institution, however, it has a more universal objective.

Susan outlined the bank’s five-year investment to help bring business back to the city of Detroit. “At a corporate level, our purpose is to help make the communities in which we do business more prosperous and healthy,” she said.

Corporate efforts to improve society meet with widespread approval, even in today’s distrustful world. As Edelman’s Deidre H. Campbell told us, business is still expected to lead.

51% of consumers believe brands can do more to solve social ills than government. And 75% believe a company can make profits while simultaneously improving economic and social conditions.

Find your higher purpose

Frank Cooper agreed: “Trust comes from brands that connect to a higher purpose. You have to define that by starting with something that’s consistent with your company’s history, legacy and aspirations.

“Once you’ve articulated that clearly, you have to behave in a way that’s consistent with that higher purpose. These may sound like lofty goals, but the reality is that brands hold an enormous amount of power and influence.”

Hear more of our experts’ insights here. And visit our ‘Currency of Trust’ content hub at  to learn more about how LinkedIn Marketing Solutions can help you rethink your organization’s customer journey – and connect you to the audiences and issues that matter most.