Here are four ways to build a credible and trustworthy brand

Trust is the ultimate currency of business and workplace relationships, and essential for building a beloved brand and great reputation. People want to work for, do business with, and invest in, businesses, they trust. Credibility is a foundation of trust because it goes to the heart of individual/organisational character. Throughout the pandemic and other recent world crises, we’ve seen politicians, business leaders, government organisations and media outlets reveal their characters by the pr

presence or absence of perceived credibility in the shape of misinformation, bias, mixed messages and lack of transparency. This, in turn, has impacted their brand trustworthiness and defined their reputations.

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer – a global survey on trust and credibility within the four institutions of government, media, business and non-government organisations that has been running for more than 20 years – confirms that concerns over fake news or false information is now at an all-time high (76 per cent). The survey also found that ‘distrust is now society’s default emotion’ with six in 10 people saying they automatically distrust something until they see evidence it is trustworthy. Of the four institutions, business is the most trusted at 61 per cent; however, interestingly, 77 per cent of respondents trust ‘My Employer’, highlighting the important relationship between employer and employee.

Chief among the actions Edelman says organisations can take to restore the cycle of trust is to ‘provide credible information’; content that is truthful, unbiased and reliable. Indeed, an opportunity exists for all CEOs to build their organisation’s brand credibility and reputation, by becoming a trusted source of information; for their employees, for their customers, for their communities.

While quality of information is a key determinant of brand trust and credibility, one of the most powerful trust and credibility-building things an organisation can do is to be consistent in its intentions, words and actions. People trust other people when they have good intention and do what they say they will do. Similarly, people trust businesses that have good character and deliver on their brand promises. To establish consistency of intention, words and action, a business needs to align the three organisational dimensions of culture, communications and customer experience.

Culture reflects what an organisation thinks – expressed through its beliefs, values, sense of purpose and traditions.Communications reflect what an organisation says – expressed through the brand identity, imagery, stories, language and tonality it conveys.Customer experience reflects what an organisation does – expressed through direct delivery of its products and services, and interactions it facilitates via customer touchpoints and marketing channels.

When these three business dimensions are aligned – that is, when organisational beliefs, values and a strong sense of purpose (culture) are embedded within marketing messages, branding and channels (communications), and then faithfully delivered upon through the product/service (customer experience), credibility and trust are built from the consistency of thoughts, words and actions.

This alignment of culture, communications and customer experience also creates more cohesive and engaged teams, because the thinking, language and behaviours of employees are based on a common purpose and shared understanding of organisational vision and values. Over time, this consistency improves organisational results, relationships and reputation.

Conversely, when culture, communications and customer experience are out of sync, organisational credibility diminishes, trust is compromised and reputation suffers due to mixed messages, inconsistent interactions across customer touchpoints, less engaged staff and unfulfilled customer expectations in product/service delivery.

While the three dimensions of culture, communications and customer experience have long been connected with reputation, a fourth organisational dimension has emerged as a key driver of reputation – corporate citizenship.

Corporate citizenship reflects what an organisation gives – expressed through its sense of public spirit or community mindedness, and its contributions to society beyond its profit- making purpose.

People now expect brands to stand for more than just profit and products; to act in socially-conscious, purpose-driven ways to help create a better world. According to the Edelman survey however, people believe business is not doing enough to address societal problems, particularly in the areas of climate change (52 per cent), economic inequality (49 per cent), workforce reskilling (46 per cent) and trustworthy information (42 per cent).

With the expectation for business to play a stronger societal leadership role, there’s no better time for organisations to foster more trust and strengthen their brand credibility by making clear their culture beliefs and values (what they think), then walking the talk by aligning their corporate communications (what they say), customer experience (what they do) and citizenship (what they give).

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