Required Reading: Trustworthy Companies Focus on These Three Things
As principal of Appropriate, a brand and content strategy consultancy based in Boston, Margot Bloomstein is a leading voice in the content strategy industry. In her new book, Trustworthy: How the Smartest Brands Beat Cynicism and Bridge the Trust Gap, she reveals a three-piece action plan to help companies earn consumer trust, loyalty, and respect. CRM editor Leonard Klie delved into this further with her.
CRM: Is there a trust crisis right now, and what is causing it?
Bloomstein: Consumers have lost trust in big institutions and brands they thought they knew. Businesses might be inadvertently stoking that cynicism and distrust by investing in change. Novelty to your marketing department is inconsistency to your audience, and they’re already battered by enormous social change and the challenges of the pandemic. If you’re investing in a major brand overhaul, new logo, or revolutionary site architecture, now isn’t the time. Now is the time to stay the course and invest in consistency. Standardize guidelines for content creators, empower contact center operators with more cohesive messaging, and work to ensure your audience can feel confident that they know your brand.
What is your three-part plan for building trust, loyalty, and respect?
Trustworthy presents a framework for businesses to build trust by focusing on three areas: voice, volume, and vulnerability. Voice describes the familiar, consistent way companies engage through all touchpoints. Offer customers a similar personality through live chat, Twitter, your homepage, and beyond so they feel confident they know what to expect, regardless of content creator, platform, or product.
If voice refers to how, volume refers to how much. How do you determine the right volume of information, number of blog posts, images in a gallery, or details in a diagram to help your audience feel confident? There’s no one right answer, but you know you’ve said enough when your audience can make good decisions and feel good about the decisions they make.
The final section focuses on vulnerability: How do you weigh risk to get vulnerable with your audience when your company makes mistakes or when you make your values visible? Consumers increasingly want to vote with their dollars and expect companies to communicate with transparency. That brings risk, but the rewards are far greater. By prototyping in public, you can turn your harshest critics into fierce champions and build loyalty as well as your audience size.
How do voice, volume, and vulnerability increase brand engagement?
Any time your company invests in content to tell your audience who you are and how you are, you empower them with information to make better decisions. Your company becomes more distinct and memorable through a consistent voice and the right volume of content. When you engage with vulnerability, you reveal how your organization is engaged, evolving, and compassionate. It’s not a weakness, but a strength that stems from the confidence of knowing what makes your brand unique.
You claim that empowering customers to make their own decisions is the best way to retain their loyalty. Can you explain?
Any good salesperson knows the best way to help customers feel secure in their decisions isn’t telling them what to think but offering them evidence to come to those conclusions themselves. When we help customers feel smarter and more confident in their decisions, they radiate that confidence back to the company that helped them get there.
You say designers, marketers, content strategists, and writers are uniquely qualified to reverse the trust deficiency. What puts them in that position?
These people focus on solving problems of communication, helping organizations connect with people. Right now, that connection is broken; disconnection feeds discontent and cynicism. We prize meeting users’ needs, and empowerment is what our users need most right now.
What is the one point you want readers to take away from this book?
When so many people feel cynical and don’t trust government, public health officials, and the media, business can step into that void. Business can be a force for good. We don’t need to gaslight our audiences to gain their loyalty.