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Trust matters: 6 ways to build it into your content

If you’re thinking about dumping Facebook in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, you’re not alone.

As the New York Times recently reported, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook appeared more than 40,000 times the day after news broke about the privacy violations affecting 50 million Facebook users.

Facebook’s faux pas is having serious consequences. Between the time news of the violations surfaced and March 25, Facebook shares dropped 14%, taking $75 billion off the company’s valuation, according to USA Today and MarketWatch.com.

Many people cite an erosion of trust as the reason for ditching their Facebook accounts. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted as much in his March 21 Facebook post and in full-page ads published on March 25 in several American and British newspapers.

Trust is the most important thing a business offers—no matter how good the product or service. It can take years to build trust with your audience, but only one bad incident to lose it. Once a bond of trust is broken, it’s very hard to repair.

As consumers become more cautious about forming business relationships, it’s more important than ever to create content that earns their trust. Here are six ways to do just that:

  1. Be honest
    Of course, you don’t want to create content that’s less than truthful (astute readers can sniff out lies quicker than a bloodhound). To build trust, show your audience you act with integrity by citing credible sources for referenced data. Post a clearly written privacy policy if you’re asking for reader email addresses or other personal information. Make sure you can follow through on a promise before putting it in print. Be transparent and avoid vague copy that readers will interpret as something less than genuine.

  2. Relate to your audience
    Trust means relatability and forming bonds. If you aren’t speaking to your audience at their level, it’s going to be difficult to connect with them and develop a trusting relationship. Get to know your audience inside and out. What are their concerns? What sways their opinion? Are they familiar with your industry’s jargon, or do you need to write using common language? Show your audience you can relate to their experiences to help create and reinforce trust.

  3. Develop authority on your subject
    We trust people who are experts in their field. That’s why you take your car to a professional mechanic instead of your cousin Lou who tinkers with junkers in his garage. Showcase your organization’s expertise with articles and stories written (or ghostwritten) by in-house experts. Use research data you’ve collected to emphasize a point. Present your business in a professional, believable, authentic manner.

  4. Communicate early and often
    A key to building trust is maintaining regular and close communication with your audience. If no one responds to reader posts on your social media channels or blogs, it gives the impression no one is minding the store (or that no one cares). Be attentive to your audience by monitoring your social media presence carefully and responding quickly to their questions, concerns and needs.

  5. Proofread carefully
    Your content can be fabulous, but if it’s inconsistent in tone, filled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, or includes broken hyperlinks, your audience will wonder if you know what the heck you’re doing. Staff members are sometimes too close to the copy to spot errors. If that’s the case, consider hiring an outside editor. The extra set of eyes is worth every cent to ensure your content is polished, professional and mistake-free.

  6. Own your mistakes
    This is a sore spot for many Facebook users. It took days for Mark Zuckerberg to issue a statement after the Cambridge Analytica mess. And when he finally responded, many interpreted his statements as less than apologetic. No one wants to step into it like Facebook, but mistakes do happen. If one occurs, give it swift and thorough attention. Own it, apologize for it, and learn from the experience by asking your audience what you can do to make things better.

There are really no shortcuts to building trust with your audience. Following the tips above can go a long way toward creating solid, loyal business relationships.

What are some of the ways you create content that earns the trust of your audience?  Let us know in the comments section below.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Excellent, concise advice, Jeff. Thank you! I’m forwarding this to a junior colleague who is feeling her way along the corporate communications career path.

    1. Thanks for forwarding my newsletter, Beth. I hope it’s helpful to your colleague. The tips can also be good reminders for more seasoned pros!

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