Trust is earned as any CEO should know

Trust is earned. We know that through regular surveys that put politicians at the bottom of the trust pile, preceded by journalists, while dentists and pharmacists usually lead the ladder.

In the charity world, according to the Charities Trust Index 2016, charities are doing better in the public trust stakes now than six years ago. Heading the list is the Royal Flying Doctors’ Service, followed by St John Ambulance and beyondblue. Central to the trust factor is the way each has responded to crises, stuck to its values, and explains what and why it does well.

Communications is vital in this era of scepticism. It is not enough to rely on the history, status or track record. That is why, as consultants, we work closely with CEOs. By working alongside CEOs, we help them understand how important it is to develop answers to the why, how and what questions that any stakeholder will ask.  In the instance of an organisation that runs a phone helpline, for example, the CEO has to be able to address questions around the role the organisation plays in providing solutions, what it is trying to achieve and how individuals can and are playing a part.

We develop a strategy that has a clearly articulated purpose (sometimes known as a case for support) about why the organisation exists. We highlight the values and approach to explain how you achieve the purpose. The why and how are critical to building belief in the organisation, and come before what you do – the services, activities or programs the organisation delivers. 

With these three components in place, we then work with the CEO to ensure the same, consistent story is told both internally and externally, from staff to volunteers, from donors to government, from beneficiaries to suppliers. A consistent brand drives internal culture as much as it does a fundraising campaign.

None of this however builds trust. Brands do not build trust, nor does the best PR person or strategy. Their role is simply to tell the story so that all stakeholders are engaged, they know and understand what the organisation does, is trying to achieve and have a clear idea of how they can be involved. Put simply, brand and communications is about building belief.

What happens next depends on the organisation and how it behaves. Behave well, and trust is earned.

The illustration is from Pro Bono Australia.