Not only are communicators’ tools and channels shifting like stairs in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, we also have to keep up with audiences’ changing expectations for engagement.
When it comes to building reputation and trust, clearly people expect to see authentic corporate character. But it’s not as clear to know how audiences want to engage, or how much transparency is the right amount, or how to understand the business value of our efforts.
Edelman’s 14th annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey provides a compelling view of the state of trust, and it also sheds light on how smart Chief Communications Officers (CCO) can Show Up Differently:
- Be the quiet athlete that lets on-field performance speak first. How a company behaves speaks louder than what it says. Demonstrate societal context and benefits of your company’s work. Once you’re doing, then engage stakeholders. Prioritize engagement and integrity, the most important areas for building trust where business is perceived as underperforming. Share goals. Get feedback. Make your purpose clear and your integrity discoverable.
- Be the artful director that uses every voice in the choir. Harness each potential voice, choosing wisely when and how they join in song. Academics and technical experts are rated as the most credible spokespeople. CEOs must be heard, especially on topics of integrity and the business. But trust in regular employees is dramatic – they are the single most trusted source of information about a company. They have moved from key audience to key channel. Ensure the whole choir is singing… one song.
- Stay alert in the air traffic control tower. Monitor and manage all the channels where audiences are gaining information about you. Earned media is critical for 3rd party validation. Owned media offers control and repetition, while dialogue deepens loyalty. The search engine is the most exciting force to master. Search is respondents’ first source to find and confirm/validate news and information. And search engines are nearly as trusted as traditional media. They have become a source and barometer for reputation. Today, when I search “West Virginia” in Google, two of the top four options it suggests are “chemical spill” and “water.” As long as those suggestions remain, it will negatively affect reputation.
Keep listening to your stakeholders, and by all means, show up differently in the way they want you to. That’s the path to trust and reputation.