Trust is challenging to build but easy to lose and is critical to organisations of all sizes – it’s a challenge that should not be underestimated. A look at the latest Trust Barometer survey shows that trust is declining, especially for business.
This lack of trust affects sales, supplier relations or the ability to raise funds and, internally, staff retention and commitment.
There are real benefits to be gained by taking reputation seriously. The 2015 UK Reputation Dividend report considers that reputation contributes to £1 in every £2 of market capitalisation. On the flip side, it is ‘destroying’ £1 of value for every £7. In other words, a better reputation means a better value for your business.
One of the prime reasons why trust is lost is that businesses over-promise. The talk and the walk are not always in step.
So what can organisations, of all types and sizes, do to build and protect their reputations and the level of trust that people have in them?
(1) Understand what people expect — talking to audiences will help organisations know if action needs to be taken and how it is perceived.
(2) Engage with government and policy making — a lack of trust between the organisation and government can lead to adverse comment or even new regulation.
(3) Talk to the media — trust needs to be built and media coverage of the organisation, product, service delivery or senior leaders will help – companies need to champion themselves!
(4) Consider risks — these may be operational, related to external actors or the result of the actions of senior leaders. Critically any assessment needs to be based on honesty and should be challenging. Has the tax position and executive pay been considered? Is the CSR programme delivering? Do campaigns and operations match up? If not, then it’s time for action.
(5) Build a network of friends and allies — this should be part of any networking strategy. Such friends may stand by the organisation in times of difficulty. Any organisation that lacks friends won’t be safeguarding trust.
But above all else, any organisation has to live by its promises. This requires honesty and a willingness to listen. Not all organisations are good at that.
Dr Stuart Thomson is a Public Affairs Consultant at Bircham Dyson Bell. He advises clients on public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications, and reputation management. He blogs regularly and is the author of books including ‘Public Affairs: News, Views and Hullaballoos’ Stuart also tweets @redpolitics