I was having a conversation with a CEO whom I admire about the issue of trust. “For most business people,” he said, “trust just really isn’t that important. Sure, it’s a nice thing, but they are busy achieving their goals and meeting targets.”
I think that he is right, especially as we seem to be heading deeper into an economic downturn. The focus will be on performance, with trust one of those “nice things to think about” when we can find a spare moment.
That could be a big mistake. According to a recent ad for GolinHarris, in 1957 a young Al Golin advised the owner of a small hamburger stand chain to: “Build trust with your customers and in return they will build your business.” The owner was Ray Kroc, the chain was McDonald’s. Some seem to think that the business of business is profits only. The smart ones know to first build trust and value, and money will follow.
The unique challenge today is that more than customers matter. Critical stakeholders may be neighbors, elected officials, activists, community leaders, regulators, or employees. All these audiences can profoundly impact an organization’s ability to operate. Their attitude is very different from a few years ago. They believe if you impact them in any way, they in turn have a rightful say in your business.
The hyper-competitive media environment makes it even more challenging because one slip and you become the basis for building the audiences they so desperately need. There is but one answer: communication. Communication that meets today’s demands for speed, direct access and transparency.
Without the focus on building trust through effective communication, we may be left to focus on important goals, like finding new employment.
By Gerald Baron, founder and CEO of PIER Systems, a provider of crisis communication management technology. He is also founder and president of Baron & Company, and has served as spokesperson during the early stages of the 1999 Olympic Pipeline explosion. Gerald designed a crisis communication technology, which is currently being used by the U.S. Coast Guard, leading oil companies, academic institutions and industry leaders such as Boeing and Allstate, and state and regional Departments of Emergency Management. Baron has written several books, including “Now Is Too Late2”, and has maintained the crisis management and communications blog, Crisisblogger.com.
Join Baron along with Kami Watson Huyse for their co-presentation, Integrating Social Media Into Crisis Planning: Prepare Your Company and Brand in Times of Trouble.