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How To Win At Building Trust When All Seems Lost

When people trust you, they are far more likely to stay, buy and vouch for you.

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer has recently been released.

Each year, I pick up on aspects of this detailed report and break it down into something that’s easy to understand. Not at a general, man-on-the-street level but for businesses that recognise building trust should take centre-stage with everything they do. 

Let me break down some aspects of the data and how it relates to you if you’re creating content, producing media and getting others to join you and stay by your side. 

A Brief Intro To The Report & Its Main Theme 

Since 2001 the Edelman Trust Barometer has been a global measurement of trust. At the start of each year, it analyses findings from research that takes in 34,000 people in 28 countries. This article gives a steer on the report for the UK.

The report looks at how people view businesses, media and the government in terms of trust. Where we are today, in the UK, the commercial sector has recorded one of the lowest levels of trust, with only Russia, South Korea and Hong Kong faring worse. 

Breaking this down to a business level, distrust seems to be embedded. You can see why all around you:

— Businesses share messages where there is no counter-claim and they are never wrong

— What’s shared, and the resulting, so-called dialogue, is increasingly automated 

— There’s a tendency to resort to bragging, clouding the true picture 

— The single, atomised voice of one company or concern trumps the collective interest voice which is rarely heard 

— Businesses take little or no responsibility for the effect of their actions, apart from themselves 

Even though the concept of trust seems to have jumped off a cliff for many, the report does point to some green shoots of hope.

Let me explain.

When you are fighting to be heard and listened to by others (so they can join you or buy from you), you can feel isolated. Why should anyone trust you if yours is just one lone voice that’s being projected i.e. solely from you, about your business?

As businesses, when trust is at a low point in general for everyone, there’s potential. As they say, “the only way is up.” 

One way of circumventing the trust deficit and starting to build trust is by connecting with and joining others, to bring people in around you. 

An example of this ‘at work’ so to speak, comes from law firm, Steele Raymond who are great supporters of You Are The Media. Steele Raymond wanted to support the younger members of the You Are The Media community. They have sponsored places for those who are under 25 and starting their business journey or making a stand with their own projects to come to the You Are The Media Conference in May.

Leading on this sort of initiative is something all businesses can do – aligning an initiative with your business values and living those values by taking action.  

How Does This Relate To You?

When you step forward and build something that is in plain view of everyone, it becomes easier for others to want to become a part of it. 

In the UK, as compared to government, the media and NGOs (non governmental organisations), business is regarded as being the most competent. 

This is proof that there is still much that is positively inclined towards business.

People are prepared to trust business (it does after all, get things done) but not where it co-opts on-trend movements and societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell more (take a bow McDonalds, Gillette, Pepsi and others) but rather when it steps forward with what it believes in and builds an audience around its idea. 

As an example, YATM is built around communicating the power of owning your own media space and how this leads to people/businesses better being able to communicate their messages from the spaces they own.

Although, in the Report, trust in the commercial world as an anonymous bloc may be low, this rises to far higher levels when it comes to the individual businesses that respondents work in. Employers are identified as entities people trust. Even though many still look to government to lead the way, business can now play a strong and influential supporting role.

This trend is further reflected in who people regard as credible. 

It has long been accepted that academic and technical experts have credibility conferred upon them. They have, after all, dedicated their lives to developing a practice, researching and sharing their findings. They deserve the acknowledgment (a growth of 3%). However, whilst other sources are losing credibility – from financial analysts to successful entrepreneurs – there is an increase, year on year, for ‘regular employees.’ 

Being seen as relatable by others seems to be a huge plus point. 

Expertise from ‘successful entrepreneurs’ is now wearing thin. Honesty, self-awareness and a willingness to share battle scars, are becoming stronger hands to play – a great opportunity for the ‘ordinary’ entrepreneur who can relay relatable learnings that anyone can see themselves adopting and gathering around.

How Can You Gain Trust & Turn It Into Something Powerful?

The Report points to two pillars from which trust can be built. The first is to deliver on what you promise or say you’re going to do (competence), the second is to do the right thing (ethical behaviour). 

Taking action, enabling others and being in a strong place within your marketplace comes from recognising the message you are sharing, the audience that you build around your message and from that authority build. By authority, this represents the groups of people who trust you, want to work with you and take your input as valid.

Here are some practical ideas to take on board that will help you achieve both:

Remove barriers: for example, what is the point of you gating content when that same content is readily available somewhere else. It’s just creating another wall people have to climb over.

Nurture your network. Reciprocate the favour that the people who choose to get to know you better, whether as clients or subscribers, make – show genuine interest in them, point them to places where they can discover more and find ways to build long-term relationships.

– Define your space. Be clear about the things you believe in – they will draw “your” sort of people in and also deter those that don’t buy into your beliefs. People trust you when they can see what you’re for and what you’re against, not when it appears you stand for everything (and so nothing). 

Be consistent. Capitalise on the space you own by regularly creating the content that reflects your message and values, and resonates with the audience you’re building. 

Observe and show your findings. Sharing the process and not just the results, what worked, what didn’t, is a powerful way of building trust – you’re not shying away from flaws and failings – but using them to better help others who can learn from your mistakes. 

Use plain language. Be aware of the language you use – make sure it’s one that your audience can identify with. Don’t obscure your thinking with jargon, more often than not, plain language, even for complicated concepts, works best. 

Let’s Round Up

The Edelman Trust Barometer highlights the ‘path forward’ – the future of trust – towards the end of the report. This is, quite simply, to do the right thing, to partner and to lead.

While trust in businesses may be in short supply, there is plenty of evidence that business’s capabilities are still much admired. 

This means that people are ready and waiting to trust you. There’s potential for individual businesses to step up and take responsibility for having a voice in their particular sector and community, for taking the lead and/or joining with others to build momentum and effect change.  

The actions that you put in place now can put you in a strong place going forward. Trust can be won and cultivated.


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