Home > Marketing > Business is Not the Panacea for Trust, but Candor Makes Powerful Content [roundup]

Business is Not the Panacea for Trust, but Candor Makes Powerful Content [roundup]

Business is Not the Panacea for Trust, but Candor Makes Powerful Content2

Businesses should strive to build trust by being ethical and responsible in deed – and candid, consistent and reliable in content

It’s been a long minute since I published a roundup. However, there’s been a flood of worthy ideas and studies on the topic of trust in business.

So, trust is the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing Links [UML]. UML is an occasional roundup of three related articles, links or studies, that I have vetted, wrapped in insight, and presented here for your perusal.

1. Business is not a panacea for trust

Last year’s Trust Barometer by Edelman found businesses top media and government in perceptions of ethics and competence. It’s a perception that seems to have grown longer legs in the year that followed, according to Joe Mandese of Media Post in a piece titled, Edelman Finds ‘Vicious Cycle Of Distrust,’ Puts Onus On Businesses, Brands:

“Businesses are now the most trusted institutions worldwide and are being forced to pick up the slack for solving society’s woes as trust in governments and the media are collapsing, both worldwide and in the U.S.”


“‘Government and media feed cycle of division and disinformation for votes and clicks,’ the report notes underscoring the big theme of this year’s report: ‘The cycle of distrust.’”

I believe there are elements of truth to that, but it’s messy. For example, I think the government, as in most civil servants, are honest hard-working people. The problem emerges when government institutions get politicized.

What to does it mean for business?

“Business must now be the stabilizing force delivering tangible action and results on society’s most critical issues…Societal leadership is now a core function of business.”

I just can’t get behind that, even as a capitalist. The answer isn’t to bet our freedoms on business…it’s to fix the things wrong with the politics and the media.

I can’t help but notice this narrative…

 “58% of people now saying they either buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values”

…is a good way of generating demand for services like the variety Edelman sells.

The risks are high too because studies of studies show taking the wrong stand has a big downside. Further, when you introduce concepts like quality, convenience, and price to the survey questions, the grandiose idea of business as this purveyor of utopia evaporates.

To be clear, businesses should be ethical, law-abiding and socially conscious. But leaning on an institution driven by profit to fix the ills of democracy is what Spock might have called “illogical.” We’ll get some practical advice on trust for B2B marketing next.

2. Candor makes content powerful

Too much content in B2B is so polished it comes off as contrived. That’s my take away from Jon Reed’s piece for Diginomica with the headline, The do’s and don’ts of the customer use case – the bedrock of B2B content strategy:

“B2B marketing is so pre-planned and overwrought – often, the best way to break through is via a jugular, raw alternative.”

How do you attack that proverbial jugular?

“…the authenticity that makes B2B content stand out is often low on production polish.”

Lower-quality production feels more authentic. In other words, candor – as I wrote in a recent monthly newsletter – is powerful.

His advice for content creators?

“B2B content should compete on relevance, not entertainment. Most B2B content just needs to be some combination of helpful, relevant, and interactive.”

He suggests three types of content: case studies, FAQ-style and content aimed to generate thought leadership. There’s research that backs up this thesis.

3. Top 3 things businesses can do to build trust

A global survey by Ipsos – of 20,000+ people in 29 countries – and reviewed by Marketing Charts – What Drives Trust in Businesses and Institutions? – bears similar advice.

It found the 3 things businesses can do to build trust are:

  • Be reliable and keep your promises;
  • Be open and transparent about what you are doing; and
  • Behave responsibly.

It didn’t make the list but I’d add consistency. Being consistent builds trust. Want to build trust with a pet? Be consistent. Want to build trust with your child? Be consistent. Want to build trust with your partner? Be consistent. Want to build trust in marketing? Be consistent. Mark Schaefer put it wonderfully when he said, “consistency is more important than genius.”

There was some nuance in the findings for technology companies:

“Interestingly, technology companies tend to be evaluated on a different set of criteria. Unlike businesses and institutions on a whole, the most cited drivers of trust respondents applied to these companies include that they are good at what they do (48%), are well led (40%) and have behaved well in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (39%).”

It all seems simple but clearly, doing the things that build trust is hard, or it wouldn’t be an issue.

(click image for higher resolution)

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
The 3 Characteristics of Effective Thought Leadership in B2B Marketing

Image credits: Unsplash and respective Marketing Charts article

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