Trust. It’s the foundation upon which brands are built. And its value has significantly increased during the pandemic. The upheaval and uncertainty created by Covid-19 caused a shift in consumer behavior. If you’ve been keeping up on the latest consumer trends, you know that purchase decisions now center more around credibility than ever before. A survey by Deloitte suggests that consumers are not simply interested in buying a brand name, but rather one that is trustworthy. Its competitor EY not only found that consumers want brands and experiences they can trust, but also that they will pay more for products from those brands. With findings like these examined together with the Edelman Trust Barometer statement that there is a continued general decline in how much people trust businesses to do what’s right, it’s no wonder so many companies are scrambling to address how they are perceived. But I ask myself if their initiatives are incorporating the right strategies to build the kind of brand credibility they are craving.
Being more deliberate with their purchase decisions means consumers are doing upfront research. They’re going online to find out all they can about a company’s service or product. Reviews, videos, media coverage, social media accounts – consumers are taking them all in and weighing their options. This diligence underscores the importance of PR in building brand trust. Unlike advertising, which is one-way persuasive communication, PR involves authentic storytelling through a variety of outlets. Seeing brands mentioned in a positive media piece, recommended by a respected expert, or being open and honest on social platforms are invaluable parts of brand building. PR, when done right, can help create the transparency that’s so critical in building trust with consumers, showcase the company and purpose-driven content, and use emotional connections to cultivate long-term relationships and engagement with consumers.
4 Ways PR Can Help You Build Brand Trust
Having been in the public relations and integrated marketing trenches for more than 30 years, I have helped under the radar companies create positive brand recognition and deepen engagement with customers, fans and followers. How? By focusing on these four core actions I consider paramount to building, and maintaining, brand trust and consumer loyalty:
Telling the Brand’s Story
To gain trust, brands must connect with consumers on an emotional level. They need to tell the story of the people and ideas behind the brand. Shaping genuine and moving narratives humanizes the brand, fosters connections and helps establish credibility. Great brand stories build trust through transparency by focusing on the company, its culture, its social purpose, its solutions, its customers, and the pains it can help solve. Their key messages must resonate with consumers – highlighting situations and challenges they can relate to. When consumers hear these stories, they begin to see the company in another light. Don’t, however, get caught up in the written word. Stories can also be told through video – in fact, video even helps companies cut through the clutter. I can’t stress enough that the story must be genuine – consumers are smart and with the ability to literally find anything online, they can sniff out falsehoods. The story needs to be true, consistent and authentic. It’s got to look, sound and feel like your brand through and through.
Effective PR requires a customized strategy. Digitization of media has diversified how consumers get their news. It’s important to choose the best communication platform for your brand and the story you are trying to tell. Maybe it’s social media sites to connect with customers. LinkedIn engagement and pitching to reach journalists. Or an event to highlight an initiative. An experienced PR professional knows the key to selecting the right channel for the right message to reach the right audience.
Communicating about purpose can help establish deeper connections with consumers. In fact, cCompanies that lead with purpose, where humans are put first, can boost consumer loyalty. But as with storytelling, the purpose must be authentic. Consumers want to see that a company’s commitment to a purpose is real, that they are “walking the walk, not just “talking the talk.” Brands should continuously promote purpose through words and actions. Initiatives speak volumes. They can be large or small. As long as they connect with your purpose, they will establish credibility and resonate with your audience, building relationships, trust and long-term brand affinity.
Thought Leader Positioning
Businesses and executives that offer regular advice, useful information and helpful tips build credibility in the brand and foster trust. Why? Because consumers see the brand as providing something beyond just products or services. But being a leader is not a title you can claim; rather, it is something you need to earn. Thought leadership must be cultivated. Effective PR can transform an unknown business owner or executive into an industry thought leader by shaping messaging with social media content, videos, articles, blogs, etc., and amplifying it through such activities as media coverage, podcast interviews, and speaking engagements.
Building brand trust does not happen overnight, but if you want to attract the post-Covid consumer, it’s an investment you need to make.