Can PR Restore Lost Trust?

Maggi may have succeeded in making its way through the legal tangles and restrictions but gaining the lost faith would obviously not be a cake walk for the brand. While Maggi is a classic case study to keep a watch on, keeping the trust factor up is an equally tough task for all brands.  According to Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer, trust levels across all institutions have sunk to the levels of the 2009 recession. PR may not be the cause of these terrible situations but can it be part of the solution? What can PR do to restore trust? We coined the question to the top Public Relation brains and following are the responses:

Win it back with Communication

Prema SagarPrema Sagar, Vice Chair, Burson-Marsteller, Asia Pacific & Principal/Founder, Genesis Burson Marsteller says, “Breakdown of trust amounts to a crisis in the case of a brand. And the only way you can win it back is via communication. What is your side of the story, how are you dealing with the crisis, what have you learnt from it, how will you ensure it doesn’t happen again—communicating the answer to all these questions is critical for rebuilding the lost trust. This is where communication plays a pivotal role. In the absence of your message, the gaps are filled by rumours and conjectures, which can dig a deeper hole for the brand. Instead, honest messaging, open lines of access, and a clear plan of action will demonstrate that you are in control of the situation, which goes a long way in regaining the trust of all your stakeholders.

Ride on third-party outreach

Dilip CherianShowing a way forward and giving tips to sketch a PR plan for brands like Maggi facing challanges, Dilip Cherian, the Co-founder and Consulting Partner of Perfect Relations, South Asia’s largest image management and lobbying firm says, “PR works best when it creates space for third-party endorsements. It cannot, therefore be always, just based on claims that any company or manufacturer can and will make about themselves. In the end it has to be weighed, vetted and endorsed externally. That’s the secret to getting good media coverage.

Therefore to regain confidence in a brand that has recently undergone a challenge to its image due to a crisis, Corporate Owners of the Brand, will do well to employ a PR programme that rides on third-party outreach. After that, media outreach and stakeholder outreach (like government and regulatory bodies) will kick in. In the end the outcome has to be about a set of “convinced” stakeholders and External Experts, willing to stand by the brand in question.

It is a more credible and subtle way of convincing your audiences rather than a direct, in-your-face approach – ultimately it is about harnessing the “convinced space” that PR works in, that is likely to make all the difference to Customer perceptions.”

Be dogmatic about authenticity

Nitin MantriWhen asked about the state of mistrust and how to handle it, Nitin Mantri, the CEO of Avian Media and also the President of PRCAI (Public Relations Consultants Association of India) responded, “The 21st century has seen rapid changes in the way we communicate. The world seems to be in a constant state of flux, with disruptive innovations creating new markets and new value systems to replace the existing ones. Truths are continually challenged, resulting in an atmosphere of mistrust.

To build trust you need to be dogmatic about authenticity. A culture that is authentic – both in the manner in which you conduct yourself and your communication – is pivotal in inspiring trust. This is supplemented by a sound Public Relations campaign, which can build trust for a brand as it creates third-party advocacy; that in turn leads to credibility. PR consultancies are already equipped to respond to situations that affect/ impact trust. I believe now they will be at the epicentre of trust-building for relevant stakeholders, whether these are governments, civil societies or corporations. Building trust takes a long time but once trust is built, it makes it much easier to conduct business.

PR consultancies, however, need to redefine their strategy keeping in mind that the public is more active, more knowledgeable, more engaged and more empowered to make choices. The focus must shift from managing the media to spending more time on advising and counseling CEOs and board members to engage in relationship-building activities. The stress should be on authenticity and ethics, consistent communication and dialogue.”

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