Remember the often-repeated phrase, “Trust me. I’m from the government and I’m here to help?” While those lines were initially intended to draw laughs, the annual Edelman Trust barometer wasn’t chuckling when a survey it conducted between October and November of 2020 showed that public distrust in the U.S. government rose 3% between 2019 and 2020.
CEOs and company spokespersons fared even worse. Only 40% of those polled felt they were very or extremely credible sources of information. It was the second lowest number in ten years. The lowest was 37% in 2017. The consequences for brands can sometimes be extremely costly.
In 2017, public outrage was directed at United Airlines even after its CEO apologized for a video showing a passenger forcibly being removed from his airline seat. Many consumers perceived the apology as being dismissive and half-hearted and the airline’s value dropped $1 billion within four days. It took time but United eventually recovered.
The cost of lost credibility can be disastrous and company CEOs and spokespersons can do a lot to improve their own credibility. Being open and transparent as well as honest is one step. Being honest doesn’t mean being totally honest as that isn’t reasonable since many things need to be kept confidential but being as open as possible is a big step. This is true for both internal and external audiences.
Effective interpersonal communication and personal contact, especially face-to-face, instill credibility and inspire loyalty. When leaders “walk the talk” and behave in ways that align with the values of others, credibility increases. This also pertains to relationships with the media.
Consistency in words as well as behavior is another. Being relatively predictable is a good thing. Being unpredictable isn’t only confusing, but signals instability and confusion as to where one is headed or what one really means.
Knowledge continues to be power. When a CEO or spokesperson is perceived as not knowing what they’re talking about, all credibility is lost. Focus is yet another important piece. Not deviating from topic when delivering content to an audience is key. This is the ideal time to be single-minded in approach, knowledge and opinions.
Enthusiasm signals a resounding passion for the brand or topic. If the opposite was displayed, what perception would the audience have? If the CEO or spokesperson can’t get excited about the brand, why should the audience?
Marketers can also help by establishing a clear brand identity, building an online presence that engages with comments from social platforms and thought leaders, and uses inbound marketing techniques. What also helps is knowing where customers are in the sales funnel and using promotion free content to instill trust. Establishing a customer-support infrastructure that affords full access while inviting interaction will help seal the deal.
In coming out of the pandemic, brand credibility is critical. Establishing credibility results in trust and that’s a value more consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z relish, and for which they will reward brands with their patronage.
“Without character, there is no credibility; and without credibility, there is no trust. (Warren Bennis)