Ten tips to build trust

Ten tips to build trustThe Influence Sessions panel: John Preston, Kate McClymont, Rowena Millward and Deb Price with host Rob Pyne

It’s no secret that marketing is getting more complex. As a result it becomes harder and harder for all of us – marketers, media and agencies – to be an island. No longer can we go it alone and control everything ourselves.

We need collaborations. And effective collaborations are built on trust.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has been investigating trust in business and reported that trust is built through 4 actions: honesty, willingness to share info, ethical behaviour and having shared objectives.

Trust me, I’m a professional

Recently, the Newspaper Works turned to Trust as the topic for a highly successful event, The Influence Sessions. Appearing on the panel were 4 very different experts in trust:

Kate McClymont, investigative journalists at Fairfax, has to build trust with her sources

John Preston, CEO of media agency Match, is known for his agency’s longstanding relationships with clients.

Rowena Millward, Director of Client Partnerships at Seven West Media is forging new ways of collaborating with clients and media owners.

Deb Price, Senior Keeper, Carnivores at Taronga Zoo is an expert on building trust with dangerous animals, from lions to sun bears.

We outline below the top tips from our panel, alongside some surprising tips from research into trust. How do you build it quickly? How do you avoid losing it?

The top ten tips

  1. Use humour

As an investigative journalist, Kate often only has a couple of minutes to build a connection with someone and stop them hanging up. She has learnt to use self-deprecating humour to show a little vulnerability and make a human connection with a potential source. Vulnerability is a crucial element of trust.

  1. Lean forward

Rowena said that you can’t assume trust straight away in a new relationship, but you can take the lead, by “leaning forward” to make clear your intention to forge a trusting relationship and your willingness to trust them.

  1. Create win-wins

Recounting the recent sale of Match Media to Publicis Group, John said the 300 page legal document was evidence of a lack of trust with the legal team from the buyer. But he called on the trust of the CEO of the company to work through the sticking points. Early on in the negotiations, the CEO had met with John face to face and gone through 100 points to work out how they could make the situation a win-win. This meeting was crucial in overcoming the later legal hurdles.

  1. Think about their objectives

Match media have held the Ikea account for 13 straight years. John Preston quoted that he thinks first and foremost about the client’s objectives and knows that if he helps them succeed, then his business will in turn be profitable. This is in contrast to agencies trying to make short-term profit on client’s business, which leads to a conflict of interests and relationships which break down.

  1. Attunement

Try and show the similarities between them and you. Find common ground. Build rapport. If you do this, people infer that you have similar values and are more likely to be trusted. One study showed that negotiators who were instructed to imagine what the other side were thinking and feeling significantly improved their ability to build a relationship with the other party and make a deal.

  1. Ditch email and put down the phone

Research shows that people find it relatively easy to lie or bend the truth on email and on the phone, but are much less likely to lie face to face. We all know that face to face meetings are needed to build trust, but you may not know the size of that effect: people are up to 5 times more likely to be dishonest on the phone or email than face to face.

  1. Generous tit-for-tat

One simple co-operation strategy is tit-for-tat: to treat others like they treat you. However this sometimes fails in practice when we misinterpret people’s intentions. We may feel they are doing something wrong by us and react accordingly – all the while their intention was innocent. Before you know it, a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat has developed based on a simple misunderstanding early on. As a result, it is recommended to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time they appear to do something you don’t like. This is called the “generous tit-for-tat” strategy and is proven to deliver better results for partnerships.

  1. Admit errors early

It’s much better to proactively address issues and errors, rather than hope the client doesn’t find out. Rowena commented that making mistakes is OK; on the other hand being found out is a way to burn trust.

  1. Don’t burn your sources

Early in her career, Kate had a “red hot” story but the source refused to go public on it. Her boss said she must publish and “burn the source” and she refused, much to her boss’s displeasure. 5 years later Kate got hold of an unrelated story from a source who knew about the earlier situation, and said that her actions then meant she could be trusted with this new story.

  1. Look in the mirror every 2 years

In his career, John decided that he had to live and breathe his values – including integrity. Every 2 years he looks himself in the mirror and evaluates whether he’s living up to his values. In one instance, he had resigned a client because they weren’t treating John’s people well. The client responded that they had no idea it was that bad. Fast-forward a few years and that client is now back as one of Match’s biggest and best-behaving clients.

In conclusion

Considering these tips, trust does seem to rely on empathy and not being out for yourself. It also requires short term sacrifices to build yourself a reputation for trust which will pay off many times over in the long run.

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