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Brand building must focus on belief and relationships, not merely trust says Angie Moxham

PR firm Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer was predictably issued and reported last month. The barometer has become a touchstone for brands from a diverse range of sectors, including the public sector. Of course, for most reputational guardians, the results are, more often than not, “no shit, Sherlock”. Trust in America dropped further since Trump’s election? Mistrust of the media including social media? Hold the front page!

For me, the most interesting stats are the country-by-country scores, although again, there are few surprising insights. However, my biggest bugbear with any study that focuses on trust is that it’s only a rear-view-mirror perception. We all know that trust is something we have to earn over time, once we’re engaged in a relationship, be that merely or more than transactional.

Drive belief
At The Fourth Angel, we’re more interested in studying “belief”. How do you drive belief in your brand or organisation, virgin or established? For new brands and companies, what do you need to do to grab your target audience’s attention and then engage with them in a way which will soon see them as converts, believers in your products, services and core purpose? Indeed “purpose” has become the brand comms buzzword de rigueur, with a number of consultancies buzzing around that hive, hoping to occupy new intellectual space and, cynically, unlock more marketing bucks.

When I set up 3 Monkeys in 2003, my opening gambit was around understanding the balance of IQ (intelligence quotient) versus EQ (emotional quotient) inherent in a brand. How much of each quotient needed to be dialled up or down to drive belief which could then build trust in a brand? Since launching The Fourth Angel last month, my team and I have been working on a new focus which we shorthand as RQ (relationship quotient). Our view is that wherever your brand sits on a belief or trust scale, (and belief is way more potent than trust – trust can be achieved if belief exists; trust can’t if there is no belief), the marcomms focus needs to be single-mindedly – and heartedly – on building authentic two-way relationships.

Focus on relationship
We’re in the process of exploring the RQ spectrum, assuming that this is made up of a balance of IQ, EQ, belief and trust. Critically, is there a framework that can be tailor-made for brands to establish and build belief and then earn trust?  We think so.

For us, this is an important moment in time to grapple with this, given the cynicism that permeates the PEST (political, economic, social, and technological) spectrum; again it’s perhaps no surprise that technology ranked as the most trusted sector followed by education, according to Edelman, given a global snapshot of the last 18 months. Recent news, especially with regards to Cambridge Analytica and its contract with Facebook and alleged involvement with Trump’s election campaign could, of course, mean that trust in the tech sector will suffer a serious sharp decline. But the bigger question is what relationship we have with these tech platforms and data analysts. Zuckerberg seems to want it all ways – your friend, but with a dishonest transaction.

If this smacks of the Emperor’s new clothes, it probably is! The sooner us comms folk understand that relationships with brands and organisations are no different to those with our fellow human beings, the better, easier and more efficacious our work and consultancy will be.  

Written by Angie Moxham, founder of agency The Fourth Angel and previously founder of agency 3 Monkeys

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