Importance of Trust in Communication Strategy

For any business to be successful, it is necessary for it to build trust. The exchange made must yield a commensurate perceived value for all the parties involved. Whether it is promises to clients, good working environment for employees, or acceptable returns to investors, all hinge on good communication and the trust placed on the exchange itself. We live in a highly interconnected world – connected to more things, ideas, organisations, groups and humans, than we have been in the ten thousand-year history of human societies. Today technology bridges geographies and relationships; we connect with more people in a day than we did in a year, just a decade ago. As we evolve socially, technologically and psychologically, Trust has become even more multifaceted and difficult to decipher, and its deficit exists for several reasons known and unknown. The act of trust involves a voluntary transfer of resources – emotional, physical, financial or material – with no immediate visible, tangible or quantifiable commitment from the trustee. For a successful trust-bond to be established, the trustor needs to accept a certain degree of risk or vulnerability. Trust, therefore, only develops when the expected result of the interaction is perceived as ‘beneficial’ to the trustor. Leadership, law, economy, relationships, civilizations are all based on this bond of trust.

The impact of trust is most visible, direct and tangible in businesses, as our professional relationships have continually started exceeding our social relationships. Trust impacts the behavior and performance of businesses in many intriguing ways. It creates the foundation of a strong ‘brand connect’ with all stakeholders, converting simple awareness to strong commitment and helping metamorphose normal stakeholders into devoted ambassadors. A brand’s strong relationships directly result in advantages like better acceptance, premium perception, better reliability of brand extensions and even allowance of temporary quality deficiencies.

Communication is the basic building block of Trust for any organisation. When communication gets integrated with its stakeholders, it helps its Trust substrate align with the organisation’s Vision, Values, and Strategic Intent. This Trust building platform must be sufficiently robust and well developed to conceptualise and articulate its Vision appropriately. The organisation’s degree of openness and clarity of communication determines the ease with which the organisa­tion’s Vision will reach its audiences reinforcing the Trust. It is essential to spread Organisational Culture but equally important is the evolution of its culture as well. For Trust to take root, Organisational Culture has to be built patiently and painstakingly by communicating the rituals of ‘accepted behavior’ over and over again to its people till its imprint becomes an organisational memory. The organisation’s belief in itself pervades from the top down by effectively communicating it to create the internalised trust. Such communication has always played the role of maintaining confidence in organisations but its role in ensuring that it is transmitted to its stakeholders is also a very earnest function it performs.

Communication strategy helps burnish the brand by focusing on its salient attributes, displaying and embellishing that which already exists. Communication strategy should inculcate ethics of Trust – Shared Interests, Empathy, Altruism, Non-threatening Ambience and Competence. If brands share interests with audiences the degree of familiarity increases, leading to better acceptability of the brand. Brands which show a natural understanding of the audiences’ needs, listen to them and respond appropriately, generate a positive effect of trust and empathy. The sustainability aspect of altruism comes from the fact that the more direct the connection between society and the business, the more sustainable it will be. The focus on building a trust-conducive ambience is important, most importantly for brands approaching new audiences. Where establishing the perception of competence is imperative to take discussions forward. Caution must be exercised while creating perceived competence for any assurance of competence that falls short of expectations, breaks trust just as fast as it builds it.

The communicator plays the paramount role of a brand custodian – responsible for nourishment, cleanliness, environment upkeep, mimetic exchange, and emotional health of the brand. When applied with trustworthy communication it will help set a clear direction for the organisation’s future.

N. Chandramouli
N. Chandramouli is the CEO of TRA - The Trust Research Advisory.

A Chemical Engineer turned Communicator he began his entrepreneurial journey straight after his engineering in 1990. In the last decade of his career he has promoted 6 different communication companies under the Comniscient Group umbrella. He lectures in several communication colleges and is also the author of The Brand Trust Report, India Study (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016), India’s Most Attractive Brands (2013 and 2015), India’s Most Trusted Education Institutions (2014) and Decoding Communication.

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