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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 4 years ago

The truth of the matter

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Although you won't find it on a company's balance sheet, trust is a crucial component of a successful brand. Make sure your organization builds it with every interaction.
by: James R. Contributing Columnist

When did “truth” lose its significance? Is there any “consequence” for lying? Lies seem to be committed more and more frequently in politics and business with seemingly less consequences to those committing them. Maybe we have grown immune to the onslaught of falsehoods where truth simply doesn't matter anymore and the ends justify the means.

Don't believe it. Truth matters, and you need to build it into the culture of your business or the consequences can be devastating. Just like the 1960s television show, "Truth or Consequences," I believe that the truth matters in business and in life. Trust with your customers is the most valuable of assets.

Most business leaders think of communications such as public relations, advertising, or packaging to be the most obvious approaches to brand building. But trusted brands are actually more efficiently and effectively built when brand alignment occurs between the business processes, the business culture, and ultimately the communications of a company and its products. Trust is built with every customer at every intersection of the brand experience — CoreBrand calls these “trustpoints” when they are actively implemented, managed and aligned.

Here are five ways to build trust in your company.

1. Trust is built from the first interaction.
It happens whether the interaction is intended or not. Brand trust often begins with a potential customer's first interaction with the employees of a company. What is the first impression that is made? Is the employee knowledgeable, helpful and friendly? If so, a trustpoint has been earned. Or, does the body language say the employee is tired and would prefer not to have you in his or her life at that particular moment — a barrier to the brand has been created. Once the barrier goes up it takes much greater effort to overcome the resistance to embracing the brand.

2. Managing all Trustpoints will build a better brand.
Think about your favorite product or service. Every time you use that product, an impression is made — ask yourself if the impression is positive, negative, or something in between. Consciously considering your own interactions with products you purchase will help you appreciate how consumers think about and grade your brand with every single interaction. Every trustpoint is an opportunity to build a lasting and positive impression with the brand.

3. All stakeholders have their own perspectives.
Trustpoints are different for every constituency that is critical to a company's success. For example, the investor may consider consistent earnings the most important trustpoint.
For employees, the trustpoint may be the employee salaries and benefits offered by the company. For the customer, the quality and price of the products or services are the most significant components of trust. What all these stakeholders have in common is a desire to be treated with respect, which is the essence of trust.

4. Intangible assets have tangible value.
Building trust creates a premium value for product brands as well as enterprise value for the corporate brand. While accounting standards don't yet account for brand value on the balance sheet, we know it plays a significant role in building businesses more efficiently. In other words, it takes less of an investment to sell your products if you are a trusted company.

5. Consistent behavior builds trust.

Trust is built over many different dimensions depending on the perspective of the stakeholder constituency. Having a clear vision and training your employees to communicate it consistently over time is the best way to build brand trust.
Truth is simply good for business. It builds trust and trust creates value. Customers want to buy from companies they can trust. Investors want to invest in companies they trust. The media would like to write articles about companies who give them the straight scoop. Employees want to work for a company that is trustworthy.
Telling lies in business or in politics should have consequences. It says a lot about the decline of our society and culture if lying becomes the norm and truth the casualty.

James R. Gregory is founder and CEO of CoreBrand, a global brand strategy, communications and design firm headquartered in New York, with offices in Los Angeles and Tampa. He helps clients develop strategies to improve their corporate brands and profitability. Gregory has written four books on creating value with brands: “Marketing Corporate Image,” “Leveraging the Corporate Brand,” “Branding Across Borders” and “The Best of Branding.” Contact him at [email protected].

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