I woke this morning to a news story about Age UK and while I don’t know enough about that issue to discuss it there were some significant things it highlighted. The crux of the matter was about a loss of trust and an impact on public confidence. These are issues that I have to face on a daily basis in my communication work so this was an interesting matter to consider.
There are many organisations or companies that are lucky enough to have a considerable amount of trust from people. Many charities have this position because we believe they have some honesty around their purpose, what they want to achieve and how they will work with people. We also expect that people in public services and positions of authority will have a level of honesty. Well, perhaps we think this a little less in the modern era than our ancestors did.
When something happens that impacts on our perception of the selfless nature of organisations it can damage confidence as well as reputation. Whether the information is accurate or not it will make people question the motives behind what is taking place. People may think twice before financially supporting charities or in the case of public services they will avoid working with them.
For anyone working in police communication this is a huge issue. The police have a difficult role as they have to enforce legislation, arrest people and investigate crime. All these things are made so much easier when they have the help and support of local people. When people are confident in policing and will come forward with information and assistance so much more can be achieved.
But how much do organisations, charities or businesses value trust and confidence in them? How many have response and communication plans to deal with events that may impact on reputation? And how many have trust, confidence and reputation on their corporate risk register?
I am sure the answer is not many. It is the role of professional communicators to highlight the issues around trust and confidence. They need to explain what the aftermath of an incident is likely to be but also provide examples of what the organisation needs to do to maintain trust. Above all we need to look at the events that occur affecting other groups and learn from them. But also we should never underestimate the value of trust in an organisation.