Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

How to Practice Radical Honesty

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

FORSSA, FINLAND - MAY 17, 2014: Sign Volkswagen against blue sky. The Volkswagen Group delivered over 9 million vehicles in period from January to November for the first time ever in 2014.

The Volkswagen scandal serves as the most recent reminder that it is important to be honest with your customers. Once a company has been “outed” by the media—or anyone other than itself for that matter—they have a long and arduous uphill battle to regain brand trust.

Back in the days of the TV hit show, Mad Men, the corporate “spin machine” might have churned out a well-crafted response in a time of crisis and then the public may have given a collective sigh of relief, as trust in organizations was fairly high at the time. But as authors of the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Volkswagen and the end of corporate spin” point out, the public today, as a general rule, errs on the side of mistrusting organizations. Although people can be quite forgiving, organizations seem to be starting at ground zero on the trust barometer scale, and must earn their customers trust over time.

The article points out that those feelings of mistrust, coupled with the landscape of social media along with other factors, has completely transformed the environment in which we must communicate today. The authors suggest that corporations take the notion of “corporate transparency” one step further, employing what they call “radical honesty,” whereby one is proactive about its transparency, making everything publicly available, and quickly.

While “radical honesty” may not seem like your cup of tea, we agree with the authors that, in today’s world, an organization’s truth not only will get out, but it probably already is out. In the spirit of this belief, the article provides some excellent general guidelines to communicate effectively in today’s brave new world:

  • Straight and soon. Get the story out honestly and quickly – always assume you have less time than you think.
  • Flood the zone. Use many channels – you need to connect with different kinds of stakeholders, different generations, genders, cultural backgrounds, with different communication habits.
  • Good, bad, and ugly. Encourage honest conversations about both hopes and fears. Remember that power relationships sanitize information that gets to the top. Ensure people can bring bad news, not just good.
  • Distill and simplify. Keep communication simple and relevant, don’t drown people in irrelevant data.
  • Repeat. Find ways to reiterate the message and build feedback loops. Remember that trust builds slowly and quickly fades once the message stops, or when people see or hear contrary data.

At McKenzie Worldwide, we help our clients communicate their authentic brand voice to customers, as well as guide them through this new world of communication—during day to day operations as well as in times of crisis.

What are you doing to help “keep it real” with your customers? If you need help, give us a call!

What’s the Brand Impact of Privacy?

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Over the past few weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about privacy policies on the Web. As reported in a recent CNETarticle, the discussion has focused on Facebook’s deployment of a “Like” button that publishers can place on their Web site. So what’s the harm in a small icon on a Web site? Privacy experts and advocacy groups aren’t happy.

Even if someone is not a Facebook user or is not logged in, Facebook’s social plug-ins collect the address of the Web page being visited and the Internet address of the visitor as soon as the page is loaded–clicking on the Like button is not required. If enough sites participate, that permits Facebook to assemble a vast amount of data about Internet users’ browsing habits.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to do a lot of backpedaling to cover his company’s bases on this one. You can see him interviewed on the topic of privacy and the backlash of sharing people’s information by the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg at D8. As he publicly admitted in Mashable, “we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.” In fact, he had an e-mail exchange with noted blogger Robert Scoble about the issue and came out publicly via an e-mail, which Scoble published with Zuckerberg’s permission, that said “We’re going to be ready to start talking about some of the new things we’ve built this week. I want to make sure we get this stuff right this time.”

The growth of the Web and proliferation of social media sites appears to have opened up a Pandora’s box of privacy issues. Is it fair for companies like Facebook, Google, or MySpace to capture data about your viewing habits and then sell them?

The more I read about this issue the more I thought about how privacy policies can impact your brand. Has Facebook suffered a loss in customers from this snafu? Did Google loose web traffic last summer when it caught flak for launching Google Web History, “which records the sites you visit, searches you make, images and videos you view, and even sites you haven’t been to but may like.” I doubt it.

I don’t believe that this public backlash has hurt either of these companies so far. But if important private data would have been leaked, or Facebook or Google had clearly lied to customers, I’m sure that their brands would have been tarnished.

If you look beyond concerns about privacy policy for a minute – after all policies are easily fixed and everyone moves on – a bigger problem is those having to do with old fashioned computer security. As reported here, social networking sites as well as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! are not exactly enterprise grade when it comes to security. People generally use weak passwords that open the door to all kinds of malfeasance. Its one thing to have your surfing habits tracked, but entirely different when your identity and credit cards get into the wrong hands.

So how much does trust enter into the equation when you’re working with companies? If you don’t trust Facebook with data about your viewing habits – or other personal information – will you stop visiting the site, or just scale back? How important is trust when it comes to brand loyalty? More important, can trust be regained after an issue like the one outlined above? What’s your opinion?

Trust in Public Relations

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about how recent world and industry news have given us more than enough examples of how important establishing trust is to an organization. We all grew up in the world of “PR Spin,” but that doesn’t feel like a good term anymore. Our jobs as PR professionals are fundamentally changing, in relation to the counsel we need to be giving to our clients. I saw the following post on the PRSA site reflecting this thinking:

Transparency has become increasingly necessary in our society. As communicators, we are tasked with sharing information from our organizations with members of the public. How can a communicator assure the public the organization he or she represents is a transparent one? How should a communicator handle information that is negative?

These are all questions we need to be asking ourselves as PR professionals with consumers and businesses prioritizing trust and transparency in an organization over products or services. How do we help create that trust for the organizations we represent? How does that effect the counsel we give regarding messages and how to communicate those messages? All questions I will be thinking (and blogging) about in the months to come.

The Sorry State of Technology Reporting

Friday, December 4th, 2009

As anyone who has been in the technology industry for a while knows, the heyday of the IT publications has long since past. I remember when PC Magazine was the size of one of the bridal magazines – a veritable tome chock full of reviews, commentary and, of course, tons of ads. Now the few publications that still do hardcopy are the size of pamphlets.

More alarming, however, is what the move to an online model is doing to the quality of the journalism and reporting, or lack therefore. The most recent example is the bogus report of a “black screen of death” in Windows 7.  Security research firm – at least that what they say they are – Prevx published a blog post that a new patch was impacting “millions of users.”

As PC World reported several days after its earlier erroneous reports:

The initial blog post from Prevx on Black Friday claims that “millions” of Windows 7, Vista, and XP systems are impacted by the black screen of death issue, and that the problem is caused by updates Microsoft pushed out during the November Patch Tuesday. Neither of those claims has turned out to be true.

Reporters with even a modicum of training and discipline would have questioned the Prevx blog posting and gotten a second verification before running with the story.  As I learned in J-school 101, the fallacy of the expert is a trap avoid. Ed Bott of ZD-Net does a great job of walking through the “sordid, depressing episode” as he calls it.

Indeed, it is sordid and depressing. But it’s hardly the first time and definitely won’t be the last. While publishing houses like IDC are no longer enjoying the bountiful revenue streams of the past, their influence still extends far and wide.  With the decreased revenue streams, editorial budgets and staff have been sliced. This means more junior reporters with less editorial oversight. At the same, reporters feel the heat to deliver breaking news in real time.  As Prevx demonstrated, this system is easily gamed to the detriment of all.

The tech media, unfortunately, appears to be trapped in negative feedback loop. As ad spending declines, editorial staff is cut back, this lowers editorial quality creating inaccuracies and errors, this turns off readers, the publication loses circulation, and ultimately ad revenue declines further, restarting the cycle. Continued shakeout is inevitable.


Given the flimsy state of the tech media, technology companies (and I’d venture companies in other industries as well) can ill-afford to have mainstream media be the primary method of communication to the market.  It’s critical to use social media tools and build an effective channel that lets you talk directly to your customers and partners. Chances are your customers are much more likely to believe what your CEO writes on his blog over what some “research” firm with an agenda feeds to the media.

Hello world!

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Welcome to Brand Trust Visions, the new blog for McKenzie Worldwide. Please add us to your favorite RSS reader and join the conversation about how PR and social media can help you create a respected and trusted global brand.

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