Building Better Reputations in Europe by Inspiring Trust: How Communicators are Adapting to the Age of Fake News

January 11, 2019

How do organizations earn the trust of a skeptical public? In a media environment where both public and private organizations are repeatedly placed under scrutiny by an increasingly values-driven public, communicators are struggling to address the complex issues that impact trust and reputation. To address this and other issues facing our industry, communications professionals across the continent met last week in Berlin at this year’s European Communications Summit.

Two recent trends affecting brand reputation consistently resurfaced throughout the course of the Summit:

  1. Fake News: The American President’s repeated undermining of fact-based discourse has sparked a crisis of trust on both sides of the Atlantic. In an age when anyone can disseminate information online, it is difficult for both citizens and consumers to credibly evaluate the claims of the organizations with whom they interact. Skepticism towards official communications tactics is a growing trend both within the industry and with the public at large. 
  2. Automation: Both automation and digitalization are disrupting long-established economic sectors and are directly affecting the employment prospects of large segments of the world’s population. There is likely to be a sustained backlash against companies who cut jobs in favor of automating essential processes and organizational reputations will suffer as a result.

In light of these trends, this year’s Summit centered on both external and internal solutions for the communications industry. Here’s how communicators and the organizations they advise should engage their stakeholders to establish and maintain a positive reputation.

Three ways for organizations to build trust and preserve their positive reputation:

  1. Take a stand for your values. Consumers expect companies to stand up for what they claim to stand for.
  2. Be predictable. Communicate a commitment and then follow through.
  3. Communicate the alignment between mission and business model. Organizations with good reputations can clearly convey the natural correlation between their mission and values and how they make profits.

Three ways for professional communicators to build trust and preserve their positive reputation with clients:

  1. Obtain quality input for quality output. Media clips and other vanity metrics provide very little value to clients. Examine a range of quality inputs to generate actionable insights for clients.
  2. Measure and track reputational indicators. The only way to improve reputation is to establish a methodology by which to measure and track it.
  3. Become a trusted advisor. Establish trust with clients by reflecting the world as it is, not how they would like it to be.

This article was written following my participation in APCO Worldwide’s Myriam Ugeux-Gérault Fellowship.

About the Fellowship

The Myriam Ugeux-Gérault Fellowship was created in 2010 to honor the work and memory of our Paris colleague, Myriam Ugeux-Gérault. Myriam demonstrated a passion for corporate communications, social responsibility and innovative marketing while representing the essence of APCO’s mission and values.

One selected recipient receives the opportunity to attend a conference related to strategic communications, corporate social responsibility, innovation or digital communication, as well as one week in APCO’s Paris office to learn more and share best practices in such fields.

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