Big news here: people don’t trust businesses and government agencies very much. That’s the take-away from Edelman’s Trust Barometer, an industry report that measures attitudes about trust related to business, government, and media. I love the report and I always learn a lot from the presentation, but this trust issue struck me as a key hurdle for the small businesses that I consult with. If trust is down and it takes “multiple voices, in multiple channels” (up to 10 voices, specifically) to communicate an issue before your stakeholder trusts what they have heard, is your business communicating enough, in enough places, to create a credible message?
When I do PR consultations I am often told “we just want to do Facebook” or “just help us figure out Twitter,” as if one tool makes a strategy. I don’t support a toss-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach and the report clearly underscores my belief that a diverse portfolio of communications approaches is required.
This is an extra burden for 73% of all U.S. businesses that are sole proprietors. The 7% that are partnerships may have a tiny advantage, but if businesses need to communicate on all fronts and there are only one or two people minding the store, how will those businesses be successful? Corporations generate approximately $17 billion dollars of income annually (89% of all US total receipts) so we expect that they have some room for increasing communications budgets. Small and medium-sized businesses, not so much.
It is not enough to post it once and hope it gets liked. If you want your business to really engage with customers and clients, then you are going to have to get serious about having real conversations. Many real conversations. Like at least 10 in various forms. That’s a lot of talking just to build some trust. But trust has tangible benefits, just ask the folks at Edelman. Essentially, if your customers trust you, 85% of them will consciously select your service over competitors.
Need some pointers on how to get talking and start building trust on all 10 fronts? I have a few rules to get you started.
Jules Rules for Creating Conversations
Analyze your processes to see where you intersect with customers, clients, and employees. You may find opportunities where, instead of whizzing by and waving, you can stop and have a conversation.
Make everyone a CCO – Chief Communications Officer. Your staff needs the authority and responsibility to communicate about the company on many fronts as possible. Don’t gag them with lengthy social media policies and approval processes. Train them, train them again and then let them talk.
Chat it up from the top. Leadership needs to take charge and lead the way. All too often the CEO, management or the Big Boss wants this whole engagement thing done right away, but they themselves don’t have a second to learn or incorporate the new tools of communication. If it doesn’t come from the top, it doesn’t happen.
The real question to ask yourself and your team is this: Do we talk enough to build trust? If you’re the strong and silent type you may not be getting your message heard and you may not be building much-needed trust. Got some trust issues? Give me a buzz and we can talk about it.
PS. Thanks, BizStats.com for the big numbers!