The way we conduct business has evolved greatly over the last few decades, but there is one indicator of success that has stood the test of time – trust. Below CEO Today here’s from Sarah Greenidge, credibility expert and founder of WellSpoken, as part of our Building Brands series.
In a time where accusations of fake news steal headlines, it is imperative that businesses show that they are doing more than the minimum to ensure that they are working in a credible fashion – especially when providing content to the public. The mission of my business WellSpoken is to equip and empower brands and influencers to produce good quality information, communicate in a responsible manner and have credible partnerships and affiliations.
In all industries there needs to be certain parameters established to guide those producing consumer content to generate credible information. While brands and influencers have a legitimate right to promote products or services and also provide advice to consumers, we need to find a balance between talking about topics we want to share and ensuring it is credible.
However, there are a few caveats to this deal: opinions need to be robustly informed, recommendations need to be verified by people qualified in the relevant area and areas of uncertainty need to be plainly outlined. Making sure that the principles of credibility are in place does not mean in any way that there is a hard and fast list of topics that should be restricted. However, in order to ensure your communications are credible, a business or organisation needs to take a step back and have an audit of how they currently develop content. If you provide the public with any sort of information that could change consumer behaviour, there is a responsibility to ensure that high standards to protect consumers are maintained.
The power that brands have to influence consumer is vast, but the public are becoming more and more sceptical of the information they receive from corporation.
The recently published 18th annual Edelman Trust Barometer has some important implications for corporate communicators, specifically on who, how and what consumers trust. The consumer survey showed that trust in business in general is higher than trust in government or the media, but there we still major reservations on the how well the ‘average Joe’ could trust ‘big business’.
Whether a start-up or multinational corporation, this growing sentiment can’t be ignored and organisations as a whole need to confront and address them. One way is to get content right.
In general, credible communications fall under three pillars:
What you say: All claims and advice need to be substantiated by robust evidence or credible sources of information in the relevant area of expertise;
How you say it: The language we use to convey information needs to take into account the impact certain messages can have on consumers;
Where you say it: The medium used by businesses choose to communicate content (e.g. social media, ambassadors, blogs) need to be credible channels of communication.
Building on the recent Edelman findings and what we know about credible content generation, the following three frameworks will help to ensure your business is communicating credibly:
- Editorial policies are vital for ensuring constituency and alignment across any content generating organisation, but it is shocking how many companies do not have concrete guidelines written on paper. Instead a series of miss-aligned briefs are normally given to various internal or external teams. This leads to fragmented content which results in a confused consumer which creates and air of mistrust.
- Sing from the same hymn sheet – as well as developing some robust editorial policies it is essential to have a set of key messages, so that all external communicators speak with one voice. Nothing erodes credibility like a disjointed team. Ensuring no on goes of piste is one thing, but real credibly is built when teams truly understand the value of sharing high quality information.
- Independent verification of business practices and external content will play a critical role in upholding high standards. Making ethics and credibility the core of any business not only generates best practice but also contributes to an authentic reputation.
Content generation is not just a means to end, a mechanism to generate sales or reach new audiences. Company content provides consumers a glimmer of a business’s value system. Building credibility build rapport, brand loyalty and ultimately better business.