Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Trust: the tangible unknown

Posted by Chris Clarke on June 24, 2009

Trust me...?

Trust me...?

Trust and integrity have come to the forefront of debate in the last few weeks.  What is common to the MP expenses scandal, the Iranian presidential election and the elections to the European Parliament is that trust, or the lack thereof, is responsible for the difficulties.

It is clear that for political systems and democracy to function, trust needs to be present.  The difficulty with this is that trust is inherently intangible, something emotional and something that cannot easily be measured.

The oil that powers the engine
It is trust that allows governments to govern; politicians to lead; and businesses the right to function in the market.

And whilst there has been a lot of focus on the new regulatory frameworks needed to curtail banking excesses, new rules for MPs expense claims and codes of conduct for those in public office, one truth remains – abiding by the rules is just not enough.  Citizens, consumers, customers expect more and demand more.

Last week, I was talking to a chief executive who said that the real test of leadership is whether people in your organisation do what they should be doing when nobody is watching.  This relies on trust and belief.  It relies on trust between the CEO and his/her team and on a shared belief that the strategy is right and worth pursuing.

The futility of sticking to the rules
On the other hand, it is clear that many MPs require a more public school disciplinarian regime if they are to stick to the rules.  Ironic considering that it is the law-makers themselves that expect and demand citizens to abide by laws without constant supervision.

From the current political malaise, there are lessons for organisations of all types and all sizes.

Good business isn’t just about abiding by the rules whether that is in sustainability, employee relations or financial probity – it is much more than that.  It is about doing business in a way that is authentic.  In a way that is congruent.  In a way which ‘interprets’ public and market sentiment as much as it ‘sticks’ to the rules that determine what it must do.

Building an authentic reputation
The temptation to turn to communications and reputation management programmes mustn’t be driven by the need to don a sticking plaster.  Instead, it should be driven by a desire to build a reputation that is authentic and reflects what an organisation stands for.

By building an authentic reputation many benefits flow: more goodwill amongst your customers, greater brand loyalty from consumers, more engaged and motivated employees, a more respected voice with policy-makers and regulators, and a brand that will stand the test of time and growing media scrutiny.

The truth is that, unless organisations do this, they will be found out.  And if that happens, there is little point in claiming you ‘stuck’ to the rules.

As, in today’s febrile media environment, rules don’t count for much.


One Response to “Trust: the tangible unknown”

  1. I’m thinking of pitching for the PR business of restoring trust in British politics, its MPs and its Parliament. Somebody’s got to do it. In the spirit of transparency, here’s my first draft of a pitch.

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