PR: It’s About Earning Trust

This post was first published by Brendan Reilly on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

PR professionals often get criticized for being “spin doctors” – that is, taking something bad and trying to convince people it’s actually good. For 99 percent of PR firms, this couldn’t be further from the reality of what we do.

In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, mobile Internet and social media, the only way for brands to survive, let alone thrive, is to build legitimate trust between themselves and members of their respective industries. Why? Because it has never been easier for individuals to find and engage with another brand if they aren’t satisfied with yours. Likewise, transparency and authenticity have never been more important than they are today.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog. In it, Gerd Leonhard, whom The Wall Street Journal has called “one of the leading media futurists in the world,” walks us through a number of predictions for the coming years. Of them all, two in particular stood out for me.

1) “Customers will be forming relationships with brands that are built on trust, and if a company breaks that trust, it will be very quickly viral and very quickly over. By 2020, unauthorized targeting of consumers will essentially be useless. I, as a consumer, am going to choose who I want to hear from. I’m going to like things, or I won’t like them, and you will have to earn that from me.”

Relationships. Trust. Earn. These words are central to any modern PR and communications strategy, whether they target consumers or other businesses. You earn the trust that fruitful relationships are built on. You do that through authentic content in the form of blog posts, videos, press releases, social media activity, speaking opportunities at industry conferences and more.

2) “Companies are going to try to predict how people feel about their brand, and then adjust in real time by changing features, and starting new conversations with customers in real time. All of the companies of the future will have one big job: to make sure that the customer feels cherished and safeguarded.”

Adjusting strategies in real time is not an optional luxury, it is an absolute necessity. This doesn’t mean that you have to change your entire business plan, but it does mean that you communicate with customers, prospects and other key influencers in real time to show them that you take their feedback seriously. They demand as much.

Advertising, PR and marketing materials are evolving. As Leonhard points out, people are increasingly looking for high-quality content from brands in order to form valuable and long-lasting relationships. Today, they look for that content on company and industry blogs and social media platforms. Tomorrow, who knows?

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