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Institutions Need to Nurture Modest Gains in Trust

The annual Edelman Trust Barometer shows modest gains among three-quarters of the industries monitored, and findings point to these institutions doing the right thing and a level of increased transparency amidst a perilous global economy.  What’s more interesting, however, is an expectation that governments and companies will revert back to old habits.  That only tells us these gains are fragile and there’s a likelihood for future Barometer reports to highlight declining trust and expectations.

What better time is there to further build relationships and credibility than when trust is climbing?  Smart institutions will invest emotionally and intellectually by working with their stakeholders in identifying what stakes in the ground their trust is rooted in, tap into those beliefs and build upon them.  Doing so, these institutions could emerge from this recession not only stronger, but also with a competitive advantage – stakeholders in their camps.

The report also lays out a suggested path in building trust – a mosaic.  In short, it’s actively involving and engaging a network of stakeholders, including NGOs, to affect change within your organization and industry.  The concept isn’t so new.  Conceptually, it’s much like the coalition building model many of us toy with, yet primarily in issue and crisis management situations.  What the report is suggesting, and it makes perfect sense, is deploying this model as an everyday, long-term business principal, not for short-term objectives and means.

The report also seems to paint a picture of traditional media being left out of the loop in this mosaic.  Traditional media, unsurprisingly, continues to witness declines in trust, giving organizations more reason to question traditional media’s necessity.  Smart traditional media companies, however, would be wise to heed to the report’s call to get closer to stakeholders.  Even smarter ones will make drastic changes in their business model – and that’s not figuring whether a paywall for online content makes sense.  It’s about delivering upon expectations.  Right now, according to the report, that isn’t much.

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