The Return of Experts?

"Getting Ready" by Anna BorskaLike all things in life, trust is cyclical.

Last year, in the shadow of the recession, public trust was amazingly (but predictably) low.

But now, according to the results of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in “people like us” is plummeting while trust in experts is on the rise.  Steve Rubel has a well-reasoned theory about why that might be happening, and he predicts a cyclical boom in the prominence of thought leaders and subject matter experts.

If people are once again in search of facts, figures and fountains of wisdom, what does that mean for your business?

Are You In the Business of Trust?

You don’t have to make a living in finance, health or politics to be a member of the trust economy.  Companies of all sizes, and in all industries, live and die as customers’ perceptions of business ethics and reliability shift.

In short, if your company…

  • builds its brand image around claims of effectiveness
  • is in competition for customer loyalty
  • engages in philanthropy
  • relies on donations
  • solves a problem

… then you’re in the trust business.  And once you’ve established trust among your customers, that trust is always worth promoting — and defending.

When a 2010 UK report baselessly accused our client Ecover of “greenwashing,” the burden of proof was shifted to Ecover.  After all, the report had been issued by an “expert” in the ecological field and published in The Guardian.  The problem was, the report was wrong, and Ecover wouldn’t let that kind of misrepresentation stand.

Ecover knew that their customers trusted them as experts in a crowded and competitive market, and they defended their reputation with 30 years’ worth of documented expertise.

Could your company do the same?

  • Do you have documented proof that verifies your claims and statements?
  • Do you make it easy for people to find the information they need?
  • Are your subject matter experts engaging the public?
  • Are your ethics and values visibly on display?

In this hyper-connected world, trust will continue to rise and fall as the public reacts to varying levels of white noise in their lives.  But, in the end, everyone relies on information to make daily decisions they can feel good about.

Are you providing your customers with the information they need?

Are you giving people a reason to trust you?

Image by Anna Borska