Trust is a currency that can’t be bought or sold but it can be earned, loaned and squandered
Why does money have value?
It’s not because there’s gold “backing it up.” That ended long ago.
And sure, it makes bartering more efficient. It’s easier than schlepping eggs to the town commons to train for wool.
But it’s just paper. Or even more likely, today, simply digits.
The only reason money has value is that we say it does. Money is a belief.
* * *
If you ask different professionals what went wrong at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), you’ll get different answers:
- Bankers will say it was mismanaged risk;
- Wall Street will blame the Fed’s interest rate hikes;
- Politicians will point to the other party;
- Regulators will say too few rules, or poorly enforced rules;
- Clickbait news will say social media; and
- Comms pros will say it was the messaging (here’s a thought-provoking Twitter thread on that idea).
And while reasonable people can disagree about the cause, there’s no debating the effect: Depositors lost faith. They lost confidence. They didn’t trust the bank.
The banking community has some unique dynamics…
- Scar tissue. The financial crisis of 2008-2009 still haunts many of us;
- Frayed nerves. The preceding cryptocurrency meltdown toppled a bank or two and reminded us of the financial ghosts; and
- Uncertainty. No one seems to know, with any degree of confidence, which way the economy is headed.
…and few companies would feel the consequences of lost trust so rapidly as banks, but it’s not entirely dissimilar. We live in a world with plenty of corporate fakes: fake press releases, fake web traffic and even fake job postings.
These are all tools designed to prey on a set of beliefs. Pump and dump releases lead traders to believe there is a financial opportunity. Bot traffic makes readers believe a site has a certain authority. Listing a role for hire — when no such job requisition exists — feeds the belief a company is growing.
Trust isn’t less than veracity, but it’s also something more. It’s about giving people a reason to believe.
* * *
If the economy is a system built on belief, then trust is a form of currency that you can’t buy or sell. But you can earn it and loan it out. And it’s easy to squander.
Comms pros are in a position to protect that currency.
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Image credit: DALL-E “diverse business people performing a trust fall in the style of Van Ghoh”