When the PR agency Edelman published its annual Trust Barometer – a major global study – last month, it discovered that only one in five people believed a business leader would tell the truth when confronted with a “difficult” issue.
Few senior executives would deny that business is facing a crisis of trust. Recent years have seen BP deal poorly with the Deepwater Horizon disaster and News International mishandle the phone-hacking scandal. As I write, retailers and food producers are struggling to cope with the unfolding horse meat crisis.
But while the leaders of these businesses flounder, there are countless hard-working professionals battling behind the scenes to restore the trust upon which all successful brands rely. Take Barclays, which last week began its relaunch project, something it has been working on since the Libor-fixing scandal emerged last summer. Many of Barclays' former bosses have gone, allowing new CEO Antony Jenkins to set a fresh tone by announcing the closure of Barclays' tax avoidance unit, a drive to increase transparency and a review of internal operations. He admitted the bank had "got things wrong" and talked of a "new course". He used the word "care" prominently in interviews.
The accomplished performance was the result of a beefed-up internal team, including US marketing expert Matt Hammerstein and former ad man David Wheldon. Barclays is also calling upon an increasingly heavyweight network of consultants, including Portland PR, and retains one of London's best ad agencies, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, account-handled by experienced "suit" Charlie Rudd.
So, at least it is on the right track again. But this alone will not be enough to restore trust. Ultimately this comes when the bosses run their core operations efficiently and transparently – and do not lie when something goes wrong.
Next week: Claire Beale on marketing and brandingReuse content