It’s a given in modern business that one of the ways a business builds trust is to tout one’s commitment to high-profile “good” causes. Oil companies, for example, now run more commercials talking about their wetland restoration programs than they do about their products.
There is an apparent inverse relationship between the vehemence of corporate pronouncements of goodness and the underlying vileness of a business. I dealt for a while with a Hollywood lawyer who was as slimy a creature as ever stiffed a parking valet. Every time a trade publication would point out what a bottom-feeding sleaze he was, he’d get a hurt look on his face and whine: “But I give money to the rain forest!”
As if that made everything better.
Public Relations behemoth Edelman publishes an annual report on corporate trust, tracking, among other things, whether ostentatious displays of virtue advance the cause of a business. They call it their Trust Barometer, and this year it noted that self-declared niceness is among the least effective things a business can do to increase its brand value.
Mostly, what customers want is high quality products and services – 70% said that was important in whether they trusted a business or not. Transparent business practices came in second (65%). “Good corporate citizen,” the catch-all for those charitable tie-ins and noble outreaches, matter to barely half of consumers. “Widely admired leadership,” the result of corporate self-promotion, ticks only a third of consumer radar.
We’re going to talk favorably, at Shamen, about trust and corporate citizenship – things in which we believe. But it’s important not to lose sight of what’s really important when a customer walks in your front door. That customer wants to do business with people who deliver value, as promised.
All the PR campaigns in the world can’t build trust and confidence the way taking care of customer needs can. It’s important to not lose sight of that.