Failures at 'moments of trust' cost sales, brand loyalty, and careers

Their noses are no longer than mine and their pants aren't on fire, but we know a liar when we see one.

Their noses are no longer than mine and their pants aren't on fire, but we know a liar when we see one.

John Edwards. Floyd Landis. Goldman Sachs. The politician who served in Vietnam—only he didn't.

Yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth.

What do they have in common? Each lacked integrity and failed during “moments of trust,” the critical touchpoints with the public that make or break brands and impact sales, loyalty, and careers.

Less than 1 in 5 of people believe CEOs in North America generally tell the truth, according to a study by Ipsos. Just 22% believe CEOs in Europe in the poll that came before BP Tony Hayward violated nearly every communications rule in the midst of the oil rig crisis.

Edelman's Trust Barometer survey shows that trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services. In the US and in much of Western Europe, those two attributes rank higher than product quality.

Of course, a brand's “moments of trust” happen at far more places than the CEO's podium. Like at the hostess post where a restaurant guest is wrongly accused of lying about a reservation and invited to have a $38 steak in the bar area. Or on an airline where the flight attendant goes seat by seat, row by row to thank every passenger for the business. Those who take “moments of trust” for granted risk being shredded on street corners, Twitter, Facebook and the other places on the Web.

So what is a public relations person or marketer to do? It is his or her role to influence the “moments of trust” in the organization, either as a change agent or one who salutes those employees who make a positive impact.

To manage the “moments of trust,” it's our job to sell the concept into an organization, keep a scorecard, and change the score by encouraging, rewarding, or mitigating.

So, what is the risk of doing nothing?

Nearly nine in 10 consumers globally told the people around them about their bad experiences, according to Accenture. Further, 25 % of consumers will go as far as posting negative comments about bad experiences. Tweets go live at the rate of 750 per second.

It wasn't long ago when we believed we could lose the battle for public opinion in two hours. In the “technology on steroids” era, it is closer to two minutes.

Jeff Hasen is CMO of Hipcricket, a mobile marketing company.

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