If Trust is the Issue, Why Not Be Genuine?

While attending the 2014 YouToo Social Media Conference at Kent State University, it seemed one theme speakers kept touching on repeatedly was the importance of organizational-public trust.

However, it seems based on the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer and some other research from the Pew Center, trust is precisely the issue the general public has with institutions like business, media and government.

As all of the crisis communication theorists and professionals will reiterate, telling the truth is as vital for maintaining good business operation as paying the electric bill. In this age of social media, publics, and particularly millennials, will out organizations who are caught lying. The surest way to tear a relationship asunder is to lie.

Think about how you feel about your personal relationships. If your significant other lies to you, it takes time to build up trust, again. Organizational-public relationships function in the same way–it all comes back to basic psychology.

If that is the case, and trust me (hah!) it is, what excuse do organizations have for not being genuine and forthright with their publics? I’ve taken the liberty of assembling some key, staggering facts below.

Importance of Trust

Now, obviously, there are exceptions, such as proprietary information and trade secrets. However, particularly in the age where a single tweet can spark a controversy, it is essential for organizations to build up a bank of goodwill by fostering trust.

Once trust is broken, it is difficult to regain. Organizations should take even more care in the 21st Century because people now have a predisposition to trust less.

Perhaps if organizations work to foster trust and genuine mutually beneficial relationship, future Edelman Trust Index reports will show an increase in trust for business–government will be another battle, entirely.

What do you think of the trust statistics? Do businesses have good reasons for protecting or “covering up?” Will those who trust business and government ever again be in the majority? Feel free to comment below.

2 thoughts on “If Trust is the Issue, Why Not Be Genuine?

  1. I agree that trust is a huge issue between the public and businesses. Especially during a decade where social media is source for a lot of people’s information. In a matter of minutes, a tweet that negatively affects a business could get multiple retweets and replies that it can be all over thousands of user’s timelines. I think that most consumers lack trust in businesses because they think that all they care about is making money and having power. To be successful businesses need to start focusing more on customer satisfaction and building long-term trust.

    • Thanks for your comment, Zabrina. I think it is important to note, as well, that organizations are not just accountable to customers anymore. They need to think about how what they say and do impacts their shareholders, concerned activists, employees and anyone else who could be touched, even indirectly, by an organization.

      Quite often when organizations do get into hot water, it is thanks to the publics they never saw coming. As a PR practitioner, it is always important to think about what could go wrong, even when your organization is being as genuine and forthcoming as possible.

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