Trust…the continuing saga

Why is it that we cannot trust?  What has happened in our culture and/or society that encourages us to trust only after we have tested and tested our relationships?

Clearly there has been something that has transpired that has caused a dramatic shift for people.  We see this with the rise and evolution with Social Media.  People clearly have found a voice and a way to speak up and out.

While thinking about this very post, I received an email of an upcoming audio conference.  Guess what the topic was?  Smart Trust: The Ultimate Skill that Separates Managers from Leaders.

So, not only are we researching and benchmarking trust with employees, employers and consumers, there are now designated learning opportunities to engage in trust, or in this case Smart Trust.  (Isn’t it interesting how everything these days has to be “smart”?  Smart meters, smart technology, smart cities….)

I would encourage people to think about trust and what it means to them.  What can you do as an individual to inspire trust and demonstrate trust.  Remember you have to give to receive.

My next posting will be one in a series on thinking about being a social organization versus just looking at Social Media in isolation.

Trust…From the Employer Perspective

Being able to trust, or not trust, is not just an issue for the employee or the consumer.  We know for a fact that as employers we have a few trust issues ourselves!

In fact, there is a fair amount of research to demonstrate that like employees, employers fall short in this area. According to Charlie Taylor and a study conducted in 2008 where 1,390 employers were surveyed, 83% of employers confirmed that they checked Facebook to see if an employee was really sick.  This same survey revealed that 67% of employers disciplined employees as a result of what they saw on Facebook.

The question is, just how many employers even allow their employees to use social networking sites?  According to Adam Ostrow and a survey of 1,400 Chief Information Officers with 100 employees or more, 54% of employers completely block access to social networking sites. I would argue that this is not very progressive thinking.

I would challenge employers to think differently about Social Media and social networking sites.  For those that think that employees will waste time or release confidential information, I hate to break it to you, but they don’t need social networking for that.  These employees will have already figured out a way to do this!

So, instead let’s take the positive approach and realize that:
1) Social Media is not a fad.  It is however, a fundamental shift in the way that we communicate.
2) As more people become mobile communicators, we need adjust the way we communicate.
3) A whole new generation is coming into the workforce using Social Media for communication.  Are you just going to ignore these employees?  You are if you aren’t employing Social Media.
4) Establish guidelines to help employees understand the do’s and don’ts of using Social Media.
5) Realize the tremendous potential for collaborating and sharing information.
6)  You need to take a leadership role!

In my next posting, I will cover some additional information about trust, or the lack of trust.

What kind of Social Organization do you want to be?

So, we have already established that companies need to be involved in Social Media.  It is better to be a part of the conversation rather than just having everyone else talking about you.  That being said though, what kind of organization are you now?  What kind of organization do you want to become?

I suppose that companies could be happy with just being engaged with Social Media, but I would propose that we take it one step further.  Why not take the effort all the way and become a social organization.  Make all your business planning and efforts around how your entire organization can morph into a truly social organization.  To be a social organization you take the concept of sustainability and take it to the next level.  It is more than just being a company that talks about sustainability.  For example, ask yourself questions like:  what do we want to be known for?  Once you answer that, then you have the start of a plan. Keeping asking yourself these questions as you plan and execute that plan.

Do we trust? What does the research say?

Trust.  Now there is a word.

Trust.  Who do you trust?  At work?  At home?  As a consumer?  As a person?  Who do you trust?

Trust is an area of interest that has had an interesting evolution.  Over the last decade or so, people and researchers have come to have a fascination with trust, and for good reason.  As people have become more connected and more knowledgeable, they have become more skeptical.   The question is why?  Why are people, regardless of where you are or what socioeconomic background that you have, just not as trusting as they used to be?

Even employers are doing research to understand how they need to communicate with their employees because of this very issue.  IBM for example, carried out a survey in 1997 and then again in 2003 looking at what the most trusted communication tools they had for their employees.  The results are interesting.  News media and employee’s immediate managers were two areas for example that took a big hit between 1997 and 2003.  Employees just did not have the same level of trust when it came to these sources.  On the other hand, executive letters and the company Intranet became the most trusted source in 2003.  Flash forward to 2008 however, and you see yet another picture.  The BlessingWhite Employee Engagement Report 2008 reports that only 53% of employees trust their organization’s senior leaders- not their managers, but the organization’s senior leaders.  In North America only 75% of respondents trust their immediate manager, slightly down from the 2006 report which showed that 79% trusted their managers. (This report is available at

Let’s look at the consumer side of things.  According to research and Erik Qualman, a marketing expert, 14% of consumers trust advertisements whereas 78% trust peer recommendations.

Why do we see a trend that shows employees and consumers becoming less trusting?

I may be overs simplifying things, but I believe it comes down to the history of control.  Companies, through their marketing and communications teams have traditionally had the control.  They created the message, the timing of the delivery and they held the purse strings.  In other words, they could embark on “campaigns”.  As an employee or a consumer, what could we do?
Enter Social Media.  With mobile devices that can upload stories and images in seconds, a different story could emerge and a conversation could start.  Control eroded as did trust.

In my next posting, I will continue on this theme of trust and explore trust from the employer perspective.

Two-way dialogue, the New Paradigm

Let me start off by saying that I truly believe that this is the first time in history when there really is the possibility of having a two-way dialogue.  On the one hand, technology has developed to the point where we actually have tools that enable not just word-of-mouth, but world-of-mouth.  On the other hand, we seem to be in an age when people want to speak out and they want to be engaged.

You may have heard this term – world-of-mouth – being used more and more in reference to Social Media.  When you stop and think about what these words mean, they really do have a big impact.  In a previous posting I mentioned the letter to the editor.  Sure, that was an interesting tool and you could potentially have hundreds or even thousands reading your letter on the day that it was published in the paper.  With Social Media however, your “letter” can be forwarded, re-posted, and more importantly other people can comment in real-time and a conversation can emerge.  Rather than a one-time event, depending on the topic, the interest and even the passion of people, this “letter” could become a cause that thousands support.

To emphasis my point, let’s take a real life case.  Back in August of this year (2010) Tanner Bawn, a 10 year old from Vancouver, who has muscular dystrophy and is immobile without his electric wheelchair, travelled to New York with his aunt.  According to an August 5, 2010, Globe and Mail post, when Tanner and his companions arrived in New York, his wheelchair was damaged beyond repair.  This trip was part of a wish request that the terminally ill boy made.  Unfortunately Air Canada was not immediately forthcoming to replace the chair.  In fact, according to the article, it was going to take several days before they could get a loaner.  For Tanner’s aunt, this was unacceptable.  She knew in order to get results, she would have to take action.  She went to Twitter and told her story.  A quick Google search for the terms “Air Canada” and “Twitter” and “wheelchair” bring up 112,000 results and if you read the various articles and postings, there are numerous comments within each.  This was a public relations nightmare for the airline.  Not only did traditional media pick this story up, but it went viral in the Social Media world.  (For those not familiar with the term viral, think of how a cold spreads when just one individual coughs in public – it isviral.)

If this were five years ago, or even 10 would this have occurred? In all honestly, likely not. We didn’t have the tools and perhaps not the wherewithal either. This is just one example where world-of-mouth occurred and forced an action to take place. Again, this information lives on. Unlike the old letter to the editor, in this new world of marketing and communications, opinions, posts and public relations nightmares live on and on in the digital world. Case in point, one Google search today brought me the full picture of what happened to Tanner almost two months ago in just .19 seconds.
Just think about what world-of-mouth can do to your business, your charity event, or quite frankly to your personal brand when you act or react to each and every event in your day!

In my next posting I will continue to talk about the impact of Social Media and world-of-mouth. In particular, I will review what research is telling us about trust.

Traditional Marketing and Communications

To fully appreciate the power of Social Media, we first need to review where we have been and where we are now.

Traditional marketing and communications have been rooted in some very simple principles – message generation, control and what I like to call “telling.”

Let’s look at each piece.  Whether you are creating a marketing campaign for the public or an internal communication for employees, you always start with the question:  what are we trying to achieve?  Is it increased revenues?  Increased awareness?  Increased sales?  Or, is it to influence certain behaviours?  Once we know what we are trying to achieve, and know what message will help us achieve our objective, we then decide what tool(s) we are going to use to reach our audience(s).

If you are launching a campaign, you will be very specific in knowing what medium you are using to reach and “tell” your audience what you need them to know in order to influence their behaviour.

If you want to share organizational changes or an announcement of some important initiative with employees, you will determine what is the best way to share that information and when.

Regardless of the audience, your marketing and/or communications department will want to have a very tight reign on the development, execution and even measurement of the effectiveness of said activity.  In other words, they want to control the message and hopefully control the resulting behaviour.

So, regardless of whether or not it is the campaign or the employee communication, as marketers/communicators  we are “telling” people what they should do, think or believe.

To make a long story short, traditional marketing and communications is ALL about having control and “telling” people something.  There has not been any real true two-way dialogue.

Let’s not kid ourselves here please.  We all know that Best Practices cite that marketing and communications is all about two-way dialogue, but in all honesty how was this done before?  How could it be done?  If you see an ad, how do you generate a dialogue that involves the company and other people?  Sure, you could buy their product and maybe tell a friend.  Or, you could send them a letter, but how does that really generate two-way dialogue?  If you get a memo from the president of your company, how do you get more information?  Can you ask someone in the company in another location?  I suppose, but not easily.

Enter Social Media….I would dare say that this is the first time in history that real dialogue can occur and is occurring.

In my next posting I will speak more about this two-way dialogue and how it can impact you.

Delving into Social Media?

Thinking about your company taking the plunge and getting to Social Media? Are you wondering where to start and which tools should you use? Do you have questions about whether or not you can trust your employees?

You can take solace in the fact that you are not alone. Many communications and marketing professionals ask these questions every day.

Through this blog I will share with you some of the experiences that I have had over the course of my marketing and communications career and also some new experiences that I encounter.

My next posting will look first at traditional marketing and communications and the impact that they have had.