The ongoing pandemic and changing social values have redefined brand trust and public expectations of corporate brands. Further, a 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer survey found that 70% of consumers feel that trust in a company is more important today than ever before. But what exactly does it mean to today’s customers?

What is Brand Trust?

Brand trust is the degree of faith consumers have in your company to deliver on its promises. In addition to the quality of a company’s products or services, it can also refer to its financial performance or commitment to social causes. More recently, issues related to ESG and CSR have become more significant aspects of consumers’ trust in a brand. This aligns with the 74% of consumers who say that companies’ sizable impact on society and the planet is the main reason it has taken center stage.

Why is Brand Trust Important?

Brand trust is important because customers are more likely to purchase products and services from companies they feel they can rely on.

Trust significantly influences consumer behavior and purchase intent. Edelman’s 2020 survey – which included respondents from 11 countries – found that consumers rated trust as the second most important factor (behind price and affordability) when deciding to buy from a new brand or become a loyal customer.

Despite its importance, Havas’ 2021 Meaningful Brands Report indicates that only 39% of brands are trusted by consumers.

5 Ways to Build Brand Trust

So, what does this mean for PR teams?

Here are five ways your team can create a brand trust strategy that truly resonates with your target audience:

Know Your Audience

Consumers’ values when it comes to trust vary by audience demographics and interests. When studying trust across generations, Morning Consult found that not only are Millennials (1981 – 1995) and Gen Z (1996 – 2012) less trusting of the average brand, but they are also more likely to prioritize ethical concerns when choosing companies to trust. While the two younger generations are more likely to choose brands that align with their personal values, Gen X (1965 – 1980) consumers demonstrate greater long-term loyalty to their chosen brands.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to appealing to audiences, but it’s evident they all expect brands to meet certain standards. An in-depth understanding of your audience is crucial to building trust and maintaining consumer loyalty to your brand.

Define Your Values

Modern consumers favor brands that care about more than just profit. With your audience’s values in mind, consider where your company stands on each aspect of ESG and CSR. Over half of American consumers believe it’s important for companies to take a stand on social, environmental, and political issues. So, rather than steering clear of divisive topics, determine your company’s stance and publicize it. Millennials and Gen Z claim they are most receptive to brands sharing their stances on social media, in particular. Take advantage of your social channels to promote your values and highlight any work your company is doing to improve sustainability, ensure workplace safety, or promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), etc.

Show Authenticity

Research has shown that authenticity contributes to brands’ trustworthiness and perceived value. Use your social media channels to create authentic content and establish a connection with your audience.

According to Forbes, the key to being authentic is to “keep it real.” This means sharing the good and the bad with your audience, being honest and accountable when you fail, and maintaining a consistent, relatable voice across your channels. Your audience wants to feel as though they are hearing from a human being on the other end of your social accounts, not a disembodied corporation.

Ensure Transparency

A commitment to full transparency is fundamental to building and maintaining brand trust, even when your company makes mistakes. You can ensure transparency by being honest about your company’s operations and making information readily accessible to the public. Your consumers want to know that you are accountable to them and aren’t misleading with any of the information you share or withhold.

Two key steps towards transparency include admitting to your failures and outlining your plans to address them, and responding to online reviews in a way that demonstrates your openness to criticism.

Avoid Empty Promises

Audiences are wary of brands who are hopping on the social values bandwagon without making any operational changes towards an impact. You can show your consumers that your company has put action and money behind those values by measuring and reporting your CSR, ESG, and DEI efforts and impact.

Similarly, avoid claiming that your brand supports any values that align with your audience’s if you can’t back them up with evidence that your company is acting. Your audience will hold you accountable.

Measure Your Impact

In this era of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to build and strengthen consumers’ faith in your company. By taking steps to establish trust with your audience, you can improve consumer loyalty long-term.

But how do you know if your PR strategy is resonating with your audience and moving the needle on brand trust?

With the majority of brand work taking place across social platforms, understanding the conversations happening around broad social topics is essential to inform your strategy. You can then use social media listening to evaluate your social presence.

With our human-augmented AI approach to media analytics, PublicRelay can accurately evaluate text for sentiment, context, and multidimensional concepts across social, traditional, and broadcast media.

Click here to learn how you can start measuring your media coverage today!

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