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We trust, we buy


The commercial reasons to invest in building trust are mounting.

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PILLAR: MEDIA Trust is a strategic imperative, says Megan Brownlow. And research highlights that trust is now so important to a company it must be raised by the board, driven by the CEO and will influence many areas of the business.

Brownlow, National Industry Leader for Telecommunications, Media and Technology at PwC, says research in the Entertainment and Media Outlook Report for 2018 highlights the urgency of the issue. “The source of revenue for a business is the consumer, and they could not be more clear that trust is the driver of action.”

She says this year the report, which focuses on the future of marketing, was broadened to really understand the drivers of trust and how companies can turn this warm, fuzzy word into an asset that can be captured and monetised.

She says numerous breaches of trust by corporates in Australia and globally over the past year have soured relationships with consumers, suppressed investor confidence and sharpened the pencils of regulators. “This, on top of a decade of short-termism by company and brands, and we have incredible damage.”

She says the business case for trust has three compelling parts. First, if people trust they will transact with us, she says. Second, if they trust, they will refer. Conversely, if they don’t trust they will also act by actively telling people to avoid the brand and that is amplified by social media and can cause huge damage, she says.

Third, is a willingness by people to be vulnerable, which helps build trust. Behavioural scientists describe trust as a “repository of preparedness to act during vulnerability”, she says. “Relationships are deeper when people share their vulnerabilities.” A good example is media, she says. The best content comes from interviews when the interviewee trusts the interviewer enough to open themselves up and be vulnerable.

One example is restaurateur and Masterchef judge Gary Mehigan’s interview program, A Plate to Call Home, which consistently delivers surprising insights and compelling stories drawn from Australians working in the food industry. The insights come from interviewees revealing fascinating and often touching moments of vulnerability, which they do because they trust the interviewer. Nigella Lawson, who famously doesn’t talk about her children, did so with Mehigan.

Mehigan says he maintains credibility and builds trust by finding commonalities and never pretending he’s something he’s not. “For me, even as a brand, people know me as a chef and as a restaurateur and judge on Masterchef. That’s what I am good at. So, whenever I feel myself wanting to comment on something out of my field, I remind myself that my field of expertise is cake.”

The source of revenue for a business is the consumer, and they could not be more clear that trust is a driver of action.

Megan Brownlow

Brownlow says as the economy moves from products to a service and experience economy, the relationship with the consumer is now hugely important. She says that determining people’s authentic selves and true trust drivers is even more important in a social media world, where what is shown can be carefully curated. “We learn the most about our customers when they are not wearing shiny masks but when they are their true selves. Then we can see their true needs and service them better.”

Brownlow says PwC has developed a framework to highlight the main drivers of trust. “You can understand your organisation’s bench strength on trust by asking your customers questions around advocacy, consistency, transparency and success.” It’s a simple framework, she says, but there are trade-offs. For example, say you make a mistake. You might want to issue a speedy apology. “So, you are trading off success for transparency. That might be a really smart move if the transparency driver is strong for a particular group.”

Drivers can mean different things to different people. She says research from Australian Super shows that a driver of trust for millennials is ethical investing. “So, if you are acting in a millennial’s best interest, investments that show concern for a better future, like an improved environment or social inclusion, are more appealing. Yet ethical investing is not a driver of trust for many baby boomers, despite what some of them say in focus groups,” she says.

Brownlow says it’s PwC’s mission to build trust in society. “We are calling out a major opportunity and saying to businesses, ‘Don’t do it because it’s warm and fuzzy but because it’s good business sense’.”

She says once boards issue the directive to build trust, the CEO should be looking at all areas of the business. “Think about what it takes to build trust. Do you need to strengthen your people culture, your process controls, your internal audit function or your brand marketing? Because if you don’t have trust you don’t have money.”

The Press is a publication by PwC Australia, aimed at sharing expertise, capturing insights and working together to solve important problems.

Drivers of trust
  • Advocacy – Are you acting in my best interests?
  • Consistency – Have you proved credible before?
  • Transparency – Do I really understand what you’re doing?
  • Success – Do you have what it takes to help me achieve my goals?

This article first appeared in Edition 6 of The Press
By Amanda Gome, Editor, The Press

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