Apr
06

Nov
16

James E. Lukaszewski is widely known as America’s Crisis Guru. He offers the following timely advice about reputation and trust and the role each play in ensuring organizational success.

I’ve always thought that the whole notion of reputation was more a Public Relations construct than a management concern. Leaders care about trust.

During my nearly 40 years in reputation, leadership and organizational recovery I can’t recall a serious discussion of reputation in a management circumstance by those running the business until just before they were about to lose or see their reputation seriously damaged. Public Relations advisors rather than business operators raised the issues.

Trust is a powerful management term. I define trust as the absence of fear. I interpret fear to mean the absence of trust. Trust is a management word; trust is a powerful cultural word. Trust is a word that has its counterparts in virtually every culture on the planet; and trust is understood clearly and immediately by just about everybody. Generally it’s mom who taught us about trust, so we remember.

Chief Executives of troubled organizations don’t lose their jobs because there’s a reputation problem. They lose their jobs because there is a trust problem, a failure to provide the assurance that prevents the fear of serious adverse circumstances. If we’re talking seriously about our relationship with constituents, stakeholders, employees, the public, anyone who has a stake in our organization for whatever reason, we’re talking about trust.

Reputation? We’ll need to call the PR department for the latest definition.

This is an excerpt from the second of our three book Trust, Inc series.

James E. Lukaszewski (loo-ka-SHEV-skee) is widely known as America’s Crisis Guru. He is a speaker, author (12 books and hundreds of articles and monographs), lecturer and ethicist (co-chair of the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards). 

For more information about our programs and how your organization can elevate trust, visit www.trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright 2019 Next Decade, Inc.

 

 

Nov
14

In business, it’s easy to just show up.

Show up at a lunch

Show up at a conference

Show up at a meeting

Show up at a webinar

Pay your annual dues

And then leave….

The outcome of showing up is usually little ventured, and probably little gained. And then we move on to the next lunch, conference, meeting or webinar.

 

It’s much more difficult to be involved in the planning.

Because involvement in the planning requires a commitment:

  • Of time
  • Of thought
  • Of teamwork

But it’s the participation in the planning stage that builds the trust. In planning, we engage with others who are working towards a common goal…. a positive outcome. And this is how trust is built. And trustworthy relationships lead to new business. These relationships take time to develop, and the trust is built in incremental steps.

It’s your choice. Maintain your independence, show up and then leave. Get involved in the planning and build trust. Make the investment and the payoff may surprise you.

This is an excerpt from the third of our 3 book Trust, Inc. series:

Trust, Inc., 52 Weeks of Activities and Inspirations for Building Workplace Trust

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

Nov
13

My high school friends still like to tease me that I was one of the hardest “workers” in the class. So yesterday, when we reached our 75,000 milestone, I took a deep breath and begin thinking about the next milestone and how we might get there.

Getting this far….

Our Trust Alliance, comprised of some of the world’s leading trust scholars and practitioners) spent over a year (2017-18) studying (and debating) the question of how trust is built and busted in teams and organizations, until we were able to agree on a set of universal trust elevating principles which we call TAP (Trust Alliance Principles.)

TAP is available at no cost in 16 languages and yesterday we crossed a threshold of 75,000 global views. As someone said in a recent conference call, TAP is quickly becoming the universal gold standard for elevating trust in teams and organizations. How cool is that?
Translating trust “talk” into “action”
Using the TAP principles as a framework, a suite of proprietary survey tools called AIM Towards Trust have been created, and the surveys have been run successfully with great results in over a dozen teams and organizations in the past few months. Later this week we will be introducing this powerful tool to 700 attendees at a national conference.
I am thrilled with the progress we are making moving the needle beyond trust talk to trust action. In fact, there is no longer any justifiable excuse for ANY leader, team or organization to talk about trust, but not act on it.
As for the future, we will continue to chip away, and I will keep working hard.
Thank you for helping us reach this important milestone.
Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World.
For questions or comments, email her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com or visit the website.
Oct
27

How often has the word “trust” been mentioned in the news this past week?

Trust in Google, Facebook, the Supreme Court, science and even the MLB. It seems that by the day, trust “talk” gains in popularity. There is no arguing that trust is a hot topic from the mountains of Davos all the way down to Wall Street.

Unfortunately, most news articles ignore the interpersonal and internal nature of trust in organizations (the ones that are difficult to monetize), instead focusing on trust “talk” and “work arounds.” We read about trust and data security, trust and sustainability, brand trust, and one of my favorites, Natural Language Processing (NLP) measures of trust. This not only adds  to the public’s misperception of what trust is, and what it is not, but it also dilutes the importance of the role trust plays in building principled and healthy organizations; the ones where people want to work.

This past week the global communications firm Edelman turned the discussion of trust to who owns it within the corporate structure. Their conclusion? The CIO. “The CIO in Focus study by Edelman reveals that CIOs are under increasing pressure to help safeguard not only a company’s data but also its corporate reputation and trust.”

What better opportunity to engage the members of our Trust Council  and ask them the same question: “Who owns trust?”

According to Bart Alexander of Alexander & Associates, it’s certainly not the CIO, although that person does play a role.

Chief Information Officers certainly do not “own” trust, nor are they the sole “guardians of trust.”  All C-suite members play significant roles in setting corporate culture including the norms and behaviors that foster trust.  In that respect, CIOs share the same responsibility as their C-suite peers.

At the same time, CIOs do play at least two unique and key roles in building and guarding trust., First, CIOs determine data strategy that determines the level of respect for privacy and security. And additionally, CIOs are business partners across the enterprise in both ongoing operations and innovation, giving them a direct view of the and influence on the value being placed on integrity and respect now and down the road.

Randy Conley of Ken Blanchard supported Bart’s position, taking the response one step further:

The person at the top (CEO, President, etc.) has a greater obligation to be the guardian of organizational trust.

Delegating responsibility to the CIO, “Chief Trust Officer,” or any other person or team, signals that trust is just another corporate duty that can be compartmentalized and managed in a silo. Saying the CIO is the guardian of organizational trust is a myopic view on the scope and importance of organizational trust. Corporate governance, brand reputation, customer experience, financial integrity, environmental responsibility, and community stewardship are among many key areas that impact stakeholder trust in an organization. Everyone needs to shoulder responsibility for building trust if an organization wants to achieve the quadruple bottom-line (employer of choice, provider of choice, investment of choice, environmental steward).

Bob Vanourek a former Fortune 500 CEO agreed:

Glad to see CIOs need to “safeguard” and “play a crucial role,” or even be the “Guardians” of trust. But trust-building among all stakeholders is so critical that it must not be delegated. Enlist the CIO, CHO, CFO, and more. But only the CEO should “own” trust.

Bob Whipple of Leadergrow also agrees that the ownership of trust is the responsibility of everyone in the organization:

The short answer is “everyone,” since trust can be created or destroyed by anyone in an organization.  In reality, the mandate to create, maintain, enhance, and repair trust gets more important as you go upward in an organization.  The most senior leaders have the responsibility for setting the tone for everything that happens in their organization.  If the level of trust throughout the layers is inadequate, the senior-most leader needs to take a good long look in the mirror to see the culprit.

Apparently, engaging subject matter experts who know trust best also provides the most coherent answers to questions like “Who owns trust?”

In summary, trust ownership cannot be delegated to a CIO or anyone else, and it will only be effective when: 

  1. Leaders acknowledge that trust starts with them, and is always constructed from the inside out
  2. The right tools are used to identify trust weaknesses and strengths
  3. Team members are free to discuss trust through open dialogue
  4. Trust weaknesses are mended and strengths are celebrated

We call this process AIM Towards Trust... Acknowledge, Identify, Mend and it’s been used successfully in teams and organizations of all sizes, shapes and colors; but only when leaders intentionally choose to build trust into their corporate culture AND don’t attempt to delegate it. 

Falling prey to quick fix solutions for elevating trust should be avoided. So should news coverage that misdefines and misplaces trust including discussions of brand trust, data trust, NLP trust, and check-the-box trust. Trust is always internal and interpersonal. These “perception of trust” work arounds may be money-makers for those who promote them, but as far as ensuring sustainable trust within an organization, there is only one route, and it’s not by having the CIO “own it.”

Thanks Trust Council members for your contributions to this article. Would you like to serve on our Council? The place to begin is by joining our Trust Alliance.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic trust, contact her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

Click here to read Edelman’s Press Release. www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cios-emerge-as-new-guardians-of-corporate-trust-300942787.html

Oct
15

Last week a business owner inquired if I could help his company build a roadmap to a high trust culture. First I asked what he thought the roadmap might include, and his answer was not surprising. “My business coach instructed my office manager to hire a motivational speaker, enter us in a “great workplace” competition, donate money to charity, and have an annual picnic. Then we can call ourselves trustworthy.” ( I didn’t dare ask for the name of the coach, as it was immediately apparent that trust subject matter expertise was not their forte.) My next question was a bit more difficult. I asked him what role he would play in designing the trust roadmap. His response, “That’s why I hired a coach, so I would know how and what to delegate to my staff.” Suffice it to say, it’s a good thing the conversation was occurring by phone so I could end the call quickly.

With unemployment at record lows and employee engagement and retention looking very bleak, one might think that leaders would pay closer attention to building a culture of trust, which some have gone as far as calling the “new currency,” but apparently not so. In fact, over the past ten+ years, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard similar (and sometimes worse) answers to the questions posed above. 

So once again I turned to the members of our Trust Council  and asked them for what they considered to be the first three steps in building a culture of trust.

Bob Vanourek a former Fortune 500 CEO was the first to respond, sharing the following, and from the perspective of a consultant engaged by a large organization:
1. Contact the top leader of the organization for a personal appointment to tell him/her what they are undertaking and why it is so important, promising to keep them and all intermediate levels of authority informed about this effort.
2. Call a special meeting (with no other agenda items) of his/her direct reports and other influential staff members to:
  • Inform them of this effort.
  • Ask for their help in supporting it.
  • Ask for their help in finding resources (written, video, or in-person) to support it.
  • Ask their help in creating periodic measures for all of them for how to observe progress.

3. Commit to keep trust-building as a top professional priority in the future.

Bob Whipple of Leadergrow approached the question from the perspective of what a small business owner might do:

Have a staff meeting and tell your team there are some new rules for the enterprise:

  1. We will admit our mistakes, and model that behavior by admitting a mistake you have made during the last week that you have not shared yet.
  2. Ask that every time a person receives help or some special effort from someone else on the team – that person writes a thank you email to the person and copies you on it.  You then read a selected few of those notes at the start of every meeting. Build a culture of reinforcement at all levels of the organization.
  3. Insist that when you say or do something that someone in the organization believes is not right or consistent with our values, that person is obligated to tell you what the concern is and promise that you will make that person glad he or she brought it up.  Then do exactly that without fail – ever.  Practice reinforcing candor!

My approach to constructing a high trust culture, encompasses some of the suggestions made by “the Bobs” above, and will work in any organization of any size.

  1. Establish an organizational trust-building committee comprised of a Board member if applicable, a member of the executive team, one senior employee from the compliance, finance, communications and HR functions. Set a one-year goal to build a culture of trust from the inside out, at the team level, including the Board and executive team.
  2. Since trust is an outcome of many universal principles, step two is for each team to determine which principles are weak, and which are strong. As our past surveys have shown, the results won’t necessarily be the same from team to team within the organization. (If the organization is relatively small, it may not be necessary to survey each team individually.)
  3. Spend the first six months addressing the weakest principles on each team and celebrating the strengths. Repeat survey in 6 months and continue working on the principles that remain weak. By the end of one year, the hardest part of the trust “construction project” will have been completed. Now go have that ice cream social!

Building a culture of trust will only be effective when: 

  1. Leaders acknowledge that culture change starts with them, and is always built from the inside out
  2. The right tools are used to identify trust weaknesses and strengths
  3. Team members are free to discuss survey or other diagnostic outcomes through open dialogue
  4. Trust weaknesses are mended and strengths are celebrated

We call this process AIM Towards Trust... Acknowledge, Identify, Mend and it’s been used successfully in teams and organizations of all sizes, shapes and colors; but only when leaders intentionally choose to build trust into their corporate culture AND own it. That must always occur BEFORE a crisis, not after the fact.

Finally don’t get caught up in “work arounds” to building a high trust culture because there ARE no quick fixes. These are a few of the more “trendy” ones that you might have encountered:

  • Misdefined trust: This includes brand trust, data trust, blockchain trust, and check-the-box trust. Trust is always internal and interpersonal.
  • External trust polls: If the question “trust to do what?” is not answered, the survey is either invalid or misleading.
  • Trust as a popular place holder title:  Many will use trust interchangeably with other terms like transparency, ethics or integrity, when it is actually a combination of many universal principles.
  • Trust as one-size-fits-all: Because of its complexity, all organizational trust challenges can be attributed to a variety of factors that must be identified and addressed separately and differently.
  • Trust that is not “principles” based: Trust is not a function of the PR department or a “purpose” campaign, but rather a function of highly principled trustworthy leadership.

I hope these suggestions will help you in constructing your own trust roadmap. Special thanks to Bob V. and Bob W. Your contributions to elevating trust are always appreciated.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic trust, contact her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

 

Oct
12

 

Is it just me?

Most people I’ve met in business are honest, while a handful can’t stop their bulls–t.

How many BS excuses have you heard? What’s your favorite? These are a few of mine:

 

 

 

  • I’m VERY busy
  • I’m traveling nonstop
  • Check back with me in a month
  • I never saw your email
  • Let me run it by my team

Instead, why not just say “I’m not interested?”

People on the receiving end of BS excuses know they are just that, because they have heard them all before.

In my book, excuse givers get two strikes (the first might be legit), and then they are out! And I’ll share my experience with any colleague who asks.

I’ll take honesty over crappy excuses any day, because honesty builds trust. And if you can’t trust someone to initially tell you the truth, you probably don’t want to do business with them.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World. 

 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

Oct
08

A story of a toxic industry and how a soccer game might just offer some guidance…

This week HSBC announced the layoff of 10,000 employees, just months after ousting its Chief Executive, and bringing in an interim. According to the Financial Times, in 2014 the company employed 24,300 risk and compliance officers, and in their 2018 annual report the word “compliance” appeared 129 times. Yet since 2014, billions of dollars in fines have been levied against HSBC ranging from bank violations, fraud, money laundering, wage and hour violations and toxic securities abuses. Even with a very significant compliance presence, something still isn’t quite right at HSBC, and hasn’t been for years. Could it be that it’s not a compliance issue?

HSBC isn’t alone. Others in the industry are taking similar steps, with banking leaders continuing to cite “external” factors driving their decisions. Rarely, if ever do we hear “I screwed up” or better yet, “Our culture remains toxic and the expensive 1980s fixes are no longer working.” What if instead, leaders chose an all together different strategy, one that began with some introspection and ended with an outcome other than mass layoffs?

And now for the soccer part…

Any parent who has sat on the sidelines of a high school soccer game knows that the referee serves in a “leadership” capacity, “controlling” both the technical and behavioral components of the game. Some might think of the referee as the “Chief Compliance Officer.” Usually the “calls” are accurate, but not always. When they aren’t, coaches, parents and players pile in, and the yellow cards fly.  Sometimes these “stakeholders” are even removed from the field.

But what happens when the referee doesn’t to show up? That scenario recently played out in a game between two teams- one a big inner city group, and the other a “smaller” suburban group. From the sideline, it looked like trouble. Who could imagine these two groups facing off on a field with no one in charge? But since it was an “add on” to the schedule, and didn’t “count”, the coaches made the decision to play the game without a “leader.”

The parents and coaches held their collective breath as the game began, and for the next hour, we waited for “trouble.” It never came. In fact, the two teams got along just fine, better than in most games. Good sportsmanship was displayed and members of both teams were communicating and laughing with each other throughout the hour. It ended in a 2-1 victory for the urban team, the boys shook hands, and we all went home. What a pleasant surprise. Nobody got “carded.”

What can we learn from this story?

Perhaps the person in charge only thinks they have the power. After all, they can make the “obvious” short-term calls, collect their fee and leave the field. They have completed the “task” they were hired to do. Yet when no one is in charge or the leader chooses to relinquish some control, team members are empowered and collaboration replaces command and control. The obvious calls are mutually agreed upon, and the not so obvious are talked through until a consensus is reached. This is a healthy culture where trust replaces fear. Maybe there is a lesson for everyone to take away from this story.

What are your thoughts? Drop me an email at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

If you want to learn more, join over 70,000 global professionals who have Tapped Into Trust, participate in our global 1 minute/ 1 question global workplace study and access our survey tools.

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

Oct
02

Once again, the scandal plagued banking industry has a new CEO vowing to rebuild trust. This time the headline is out of Copenhagen… 

 

Trust in Danske Bank has collapsed, says its new chief executive

How many times have we heard these words before? “As reported by Reuters, Trust in Danske Bank has collapsed amid its involvement in a damaging money laundering scandal said the bank’s Chief Executive Chris Vogelzang, as he vowed to strengthen the bank’s defense.”

Fresh out of ABN Amro, another scandal plagued bank, the newly elected Danske CEO cites the primary cause for the loss of trust: “The high level of trust in Denmark, which enjoys a reputation as being one of the least corrupt nations, mean(ing) that there had been fewer incentives to control risks.” And his solution… As a result, he said, nine out of 10 people in the top compliance team are now from outside Denmark.

And also… “There was also some “bad” product in the mix. Trust in the bank has been further dented after a scandal, in which it failed to inform customers that it expected a poor performance from an investment product called Flexinvest Fri and continued to sell the product after raising fees associated with it.”

Once again I asked the members of our Trust Council to read the article and share some advice for Chris Vogelzang.

Donna Boehme, our “Lion” of compliance weighed in first, offering the following observations: 

To rebuild trust and establish a culture of ethical leadership is a huge undertaking that takes years, not days, and requires the advice and coaching of experts, not just PR Wizards of Smart.  One area the experts would focus this company on would be the entire system of “incentives” which has an outsized effect on culture and business decisions, as demonstrated so vividly by Wells Fargo and its fake accounts scandal. Danske might want to look at the leading edge examples being set by a number of companies In this arena.

It is also encouraging that the CEO has brought a compliance team together that has AML and other compliance SME. But if he wants that team to be successful, he must ensure that it has independence, empowerment, line  of sight, seat at the table and resources adequate to do the job well. Gone are the days when reputation and brand can be entrusted to an in-house legal team with no legitimate compliance SME (earned in the trenches) and lacking the positioning and authority to do the job. 

 

Stephen M.R. Covey  shared the following thoughts:

First, “you can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into.”  In other words, the only way to restore trust here will be through actions—behaviors—not merely words (although words can be helpful to signal what you’re going to do).  Key behaviors to restore trust here include:  Confront Reality (acknowledge it), Practice Accountability (own it), Right Wrongs (make it right as best you can), Clarify Expectations (tell people what you’re going to do to re-earn their trust), and Keep Commitments (do what you say you’re going to do).

Second, trust in the marketplace is an extension of trust in the workplace.  It’s inside out.  So in order to restore trust with customers, it will be vital to also restore trust with your own people.  Too often organizations who have lost trust in the marketplace focus primarily (sometimes almost exclusively) on the customer/market trust and don’t recognize that they also need to be rebuilding internal workplace trust.  Without the workplace trust, it’s hard to sustain market trust.  Indeed, it’s incongruent.

Third, while building/rebuilding trust is definitely an inside-out process, starting with each leader and with the leadership team, it’s also vital that the process move out to the organizational level where they can better and more appropriately align systems and structures to ensure they build trust the right way.  Some of these systems/structures may have been misaligned in the past and may have contributed to the challenge.

There’s a lot more they need to do but those are just a couple of thoughts.

 

I’ll add a few more observations to the sage advice provided by Donna and Stephen. 

The concept of rebuilding something implies that it was built before.There is one question that the new CEO must answer before a trust-building strategy can be developed. What exactly did we trust our bank to do in the past that we are currently failing to do? 

While compliance plays a role in elevating trust, it must first come as a directive from the top. If the Board of Directors doesn’t understand or support the importance of creating a long-term strategy to elevate trust, the leadership team will be ineffective. The Danske Board currently consists of five committees: audit, compliance, nomination, remuneration and risk. I would suggest adding a sixth called “trust” and immediately calling in some trust subject matter experts to assist in outlining this critical trust-building strategy.

And speaking of strategy, whether post crisis or proactive, trust can never be delegated, yet this is what we see time and time again. It is not a legal or PR “tactic,” but rather an outcome of an intentional trust “plan” that leadership executes, practices and reinforces daily. In other words, trust “talk” must be followed up with action.

I hope someone at Danske reads this and passes the article up the chain. Perhaps Danske will someday become the industry role model in building trust. After all Denmark, with its high level of trust, should demand nothing less.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic trust, contact her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

This is the link to the original Reuters article.

Sep
22

It’s Sunday. What are your plans for tomorrow?

Did you know that twice as many people call in sick on Mondays as compared to Fridays? 

 

 

That’s 24.8% vs.12.8% according to a recent study conducted in the UK. And few would argue that employee absenteeism places pressure on productivity, morale AND the bottom line, but who’s keeping track?

Putting reasons aside like sickness or a hurricane, the following common workplace occurrences are fueling Monday absenteeism:

  1. Truth takes second place to personal and professional gain
  2. Accountability is expected but not practiced by management
  3. Short-term wins beat long-term purpose
  4. Talk and actions don’t match
  5. Only one voice matters and it’s not yours
  6. Moral character? What’s that?
  7. Closed doors and closed mindedness abound
  8. Hidden agendas stifle transparency
  9. Fear is rampant and rules “rule”
  10. Failures are punished
  11. Honesty is not encouraged
  12. Shared values are non-existent

Can you name the common thread running through these?

If you guessed low trust you are correct, and it is present in almost every workplace. Low trust, leads to low morale which, in turn, increases employee absenteeism.

The fixes aren’t all that difficult if you can get past Step #1 below.

Step #1 ACKNOWLEDGE that trust is low. That’s the hardest part. Reviewing these universal principles  and answering this one question/one minute anonymous survey will help. (Almost 70,000 people already have)

Step #2  Identify which principles are weak in your organization. They won’t all be and strengths can be celebrated.

Step #3 Mend them with these tools. You can do it yourself or contact barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Why have YOU chosen to call in sick tomorrow? What actions can you take to curb “Mondayitis?”

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO at Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.

Sep
18

Brand Trust has become a “big deal” for marketers in 2019.

While some define brand trust as building trust with your customers and consumers, not everyone agrees.

A recent article in Adweek called Consumer’s Trust in Brands Has Fallen to a New Low highlights the confusion that often arises when “talking trust” from a brand standpoint, or any point for that matter. This particular article ran the “building trust gamut” from:

  • Elevating trust with consumers
  • Through data privacy 
  • Relationship building
  • To increasing transparency
  • Meeting the needs of millennials and Get Z
  • And even being good corporate citizens.

I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a pretty tall and confusing trust order.

So I asked the members of our Trust Council to read the article and share their professional observations about what brand trust is and what it isn’t. Here’s what five members had to say:

Bart Alexander, a seasoned CSR professional opined that most consumers, including young adults, are still choosing products and services based on functional attributes more than responsibility performance of the parent company. Similarly, most investors still seek to maximize total return rather than focus on long-term sustainability performance. But we may well be on the cusp of a tipping point where the approaches referenced in the article become mainstream. At the same time, we must acknowledge that most of the economy is continuing to operate on far more traditional views about value.

Nadine Hack, a leadership consultant and educator, concurs. All of this activity makes me wonder (hopefully, yet cautiously) if we may have finally reached a tipping point where corporate social responsibility is something businesses must act on, not just talk about.

Randy Conley at Ken Blanchard adds that in the digital world, organizations are having to constantly make deposits in the “trust bank” of their customers, because sooner or later, there will be an instance where trust is broken. It’s not a question of if they’ll break trust, but when. The vast majority of consumers are starting to realize that we only live under the illusion of privacy and data security.  At the end of the day, each of us as consumers has to decide our own comfort level of risk in sharing our information with others and trusting those individuals/organizations to keep it safe.

Linda Fisher Thornton, an ethics educator and consultant had this to say… Reputation and brand used to be considered separate things. You built your brand (what you wanted people to believe about your company) and you sought to protect the image of your brand that you had built. That approach is outdated. With social media transparency, reputation and brand have converged to the point that reputation defines and shapes the brand. People believe what they see a company doing rather than any pretty picture it has created to represent itself.The way to build trust is not to pretend to be a trustworthy brand, but to actually live it.

“The Trust Ambassador” Bob Whipple concluded with these thoughts…The thing I was reminded of is that we all need to be cognizant of the reputation of our own brands and the jeopardy we could put people in unwittingly. The real test is how diligent the company is on the front end to design a robust system and how the company reacts if and when something goes wrong. That is the test of their leadership.

Which brings us back to the question in the title of the article. What does Brand Trust mean?

I suppose it depends on one’s personal and professional perspective. If you are a marketer in 2019, apparently it’s a big deal, not unlike “purpose,” another big deal. Sadly, many of these are merely PR “campaigns” designed by those who have no subject matter expertise. The result is not only less trust, but more cynicism and confusion for both customers and consumers. 

Marketers who choose to talk about brand trust, should consider shifting their focus to helping build trustworthy and enduring brands. That’s not accomplished through data security or meeting the needs of a certain generation, and it’s certainly not the sole responsibility of the marketing department. The way trustworthy brands are built is similar to the way people build trust between themselves. It always boils down to principles and values, and either leaders, teams and organizations have them or they don’t. If brands want to be trustworthy and trusted, it’s leadership’s responsibility, along with their Board, to first clean up their own house from the inside out. Building a foundation of trust via principled leadership and trustworthy employees is the only solution to elevating brand trust. And then the marketing team can step in and craft an authentic message, not just a PR campaign.

As Bob Whipple said earlier, the real test is how diligent the company is on the front end.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. For more information on how to build authentic brand trust, contact her at barbara@trustacrossamerica.com 

Copyright 2019, Next Decade, Inc.