Can you be trusted? Olga Kazaka
partner at communication agency A.W.Olsen & Partners, lecturer at University of Latvia, author of the book ‘Первая книга о PR’/’Pirmā PR grāmata’

Dynamics of trust

If I were asked to name a modern corporate communication formula, I would say that organizations attract the attention of the audience by offering emotions and impressions in exchange, but keep that attention and build relationships through trust.

In this context, we see interesting dynamics. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, the international “Edelman Trust Barometer” survey showed a dramatic increase in the trust in non-governmental organizations, the media, businesses and, in particular, governments.

A year has passed and it is clear that it was more like a credit of confidence, as the new data clearly indicate that there has been disappointment. The results of the same study in early 2021 show a decline in the trust in the media, non-governmental organizations and, in particular, governments around the world. In addition, it can be seen that trust in traditional and social media as sources of information has become the lowest in the last 9 years.

Signs of a crisis of confidence are also observed in Latvia. The “Kantar” study shows that people are increasingly willing to return to the way they were before the pandemic and are less and less willing to comply with the restrictions. In addition, respondents are more likely to express dissatisfaction with the government and call for active action to resolve the problems that have arisen.

Most interestingly, according to research, the vector of hope and confidence has now shifted to companies. This category turned out to be the only one that did not show a dramatic drop in the confidence index. At the same time, the range of expectations has expanded. For example, business leaders are expected to speak and take active steps to solve various social problems that are not directly related to their business.

Generations Y and Z point out that the extent to which companies demonstrate social responsibility during a pandemic becomes an important criterion in their consumption decisions. In addition, support for the local community and solving local problems is highly valued.

The time of leaders and communicators

What can we conclude? It is time for great leaders, communicators and experts. In any case, there is a demand for them. Will there be an offer? To a large extent, it depends on managers who need to understand that now is the right time to think about both their own and their best expert personal brand.

Right now continuous communication is also important in public communication as it helps to gain a sense of stability in times of change.

What do companies that want to build trust need to integrate into their messages? Firstly, care for people, their safety and ecology by demonstrating a long-term approach.

Secondly, the position “we have a plan”. Even if the situation changes rapidly, it is important to explain to employees and customers what will happen in the coming week, month or until the next change.

Thirdly, take small steps to adapt to the new circumstances while keeping in mind the big long-term strategy and mission.

Fourth, help people interpret what is going on according to their competence. How to live, work and develop further? By the way, it is important not to forget about employees here. When a person feels the importance of their work, oxytocin, a substance responsible for trust, is released in the brain. The better employees understand their mission and need, the more they will trust the workplace.

Fifth, use storytelling in communication. Oxytocin is also released when a person listens to stories. And good stories evoke emotions, they have a plot line and a moment of unexpectedness, they stay well in mind, give a humanity to the message, and they are the intersection of values of the brand and audience. For example, if you want to demonstrate that you are a “customer-oriented organization”, it is better not to use this popular but completely empty phrase. Instead, describe a situation where your friendly and attentive attitude towards customers is seen.

Trust is the currency of the crisis. Now is the time to invest in it!