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Why building trust is key to getting the best out of your communications agency

By Brian Cant
Friday, May 04 2018

Trust is a commodity that is hard to quantify but business can’t run without. As an integrated communications agency, it’s absolutely essential to our ability to get the best results for our clients.

Every company strives to win the trust of their customers. That’s why the Canadian Automobile Association will be delighted to have placed at the top of this year’s Gustavson Brand Trust Index (GBTI).

Beattie Tartan handles media relations and engagement for the annual survey, which measures Canadian consumers’ opinions about 299 corporate and product brands across 26 categories.

Using responses from 6,342 Canadian consumers, it’s a statistically significant exercise by the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. It illustrates the loyalty a brand can engender in its customers.

One of the big takeaways from this year’s survey for me was the status of Toyota as Canada’s most-trusted automobile brand. That achievement is truly remarkable, given the scandal that enveloped the Japanese company early this decade.

Communications advice

The manufacturer put its trust in tried-and-tested communications advice after it was fined a record $1.32 billion USD over safety issues that led to at least five deaths. It had concealed or made deceptive statements about two safety issues that caused some of its models to accelerate even as drivers tried to brake. More than 12 million Toyota cars were recalled in 2009-10 for refits.

Yet, in 2018, Toyota is one of Canada’s most-trusted brands. That is a remarkable reversal of fortunes and demonstrates how quickly it is possible to rebuild a reputation.

Toyota’s public relations and marketing strategy was simple but effective. The company confessed to its duplicity, acted with humility, and made an honest apology. It changed the internal culture that had led to the tragedy and relied on an honest approach as it demonstrated how it had learned from the tragic consequences of its mistakes.

Rebuilding trust is one thing. Building it quickly in the first place is quite another, but is absolutely essential to the ability of an integrated communications agency to meet its clients’ needs.

Beattie Tartan’s whole business is built on trust. We establish it with clients so that we become part of their team, to be trusted with their big decisions and insights, while giving communications advice on which they may rely.

Crisis management

Public relations also relies on building trusting relationships with the media – if journalists know they are able to rely on us, the service we can provide our client improves and the results they see are stronger. This trust is crucially important in times when crisis management PR is required as it reinforces honest answers.

Winning clients’ trust goes beyond signing an NDA: that legally binds us to confidentiality but does nothing to foster a real relationship. The trust we build is based on the evidence we can provide of the benefit we bring to our clients.

Once they can see the coverage we deliver and the business that coverage brings to them, once they understand that our communications advice is designed to have the maximum positive impact on their reputation, once they see the importance we attach to the success of our business relationships, and once they see the sheer joy we take from delighting them… then the trust develops.

And with that trust, clients let us in – we become part of their team. Clients understand that we’re pulling in the same direction, while keeping a wary eye out for threats.

Trust, as I said, is hard to quantify. Results are not.

Beattie Tartan is the integrated communications specialist. Call 800 400 3831 to learn how we can boost your brand.