By Adam Fraser
A couple of reports I saw this week reinforced the importance of trust in business.
The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer released earlier this year highlighted a material decline in consumer trust in relation to business and government institutions. Per the report, trust has dropped to levels of the recession of 2009; consumer trust in business dropped below 50% in 14 countries.
“There has been a startling decrease in trust across all institutions driven by the unpredictable and unimaginable events of 2014” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman.
The report noted the tangible impact of trust. Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of respondents refuse to buy products and services from a company they do not trust, while 58 percent will criticize them to a friend or colleague. Conversely, 80 percent chose to buy products from companies they trusted, with 68 percent recommending those companies to a friend.
Meanwhile a recently released survey from Rittenhouse Rankings 2014 ‘Candor & Culture Survey’ [US spelling] highlighted the importance of candor in business.
This survey uses linguistic codes to score company’s senior executives in their honesty, transparency and accuracy across shareholder communications.
Positive points are allocated, for example, where specific measurable financial goals are provided by management. Additional points are given where management report back on whether goals were achieved.
Negative candor points are allocated for “cliches, euphemisms, contradictory statements, business jargon, confusing explanations and omissions of key facts”.
Collectively these negative areas are described by the wonderful acronym “FOG” being fact deficient, obfuscating generalities.
Spoiler alert – companies with the highest scores (ie demonstrating the most honesty and transparency in their communications) out performed their peers in the stock market by 7.4%.
I don’t think these 2 surveys are unrelated. The Rittenhouse Report specifically states “Candor is a proxy for trust”.
What does this mean for your social media strategy and communication?
Traits in communication that build trust – honesty, integrity, reliability, humility, empathy, transparency, simplicity.
Traits in communication which arguably do the opposite – shouting loudly, the hard sell, buzz words, jargon, ambiguity, complexity.
There are a number of ways you may be using social media – for example, sales, marketing, customer service, customer retention, HR, PR. Whatever the context, the message is loud and clear – turn off the lingo and puffery and turn on the honesty and transparency. Drop the pretense of sterile perfection and increase the humanity. The results make intuitive sense – trust will increase and your business will benefit.