Laura Tallett 27 January 2016

There have been a few headlines over the last week or so talking about the business world and trust. These have been prompted by two things: firstly the meeting of the business world’s rich and famous at Davos and secondly the launch of Edelman’s Trust barometer for 2016.

These two have for many years coincided, with Davos acting as the platform for the launch of the Trust barometer, led by Richard Edelman, CEO. But, some might well question, isn’t this exactly the wrong platform to launch such a study of trust – essentially the meeting of global capitalists in a small elite skiing village?

So, what does the person on the street think about this and how do they view the role of Davos in the global business jungle. I have heard it said that this is where the rich go to rub shoulders, ski and sip Vin Chaud in the mountains for a few days, enjoying the perks of their recent business profiteering.

People may well ask how this type of activity will help economic growth and our markets. Doesn’t this make the current situation worse and deepen the gorge of trust between business and the general public? One commentator went as far to say that this is the annual corporate pantomime of trust where we witness many acts of power and philanthropy.

With many well-known brands running clever schemes to reduce tax payments, and more and more of the everyday UK citizen paying more taxes for (arguably) standard public services, how can we build a more fruitful relationship between the business community at large, their brands, and the everyday citizen?

I’m not sure anyone knows the exact equation, but the age old discussion around how to balance profit and purpose must still take centre stage. Leadership and the purpose of a business are still central to success.

Running a successful business in an ever scrutinising world where citizens – everyone from your 19-year-old student to the local business MD – has a view, and quite frankly are willing to air it, is a tough task.

Trust cannot be commanded, it has to be earned. It is an outcome based on your behaviour as a business. It can take years to earn it, yet it is lost in minutes, as we’ve seen with brands such as VW and Thomas Cook over the last few years.

As a business working with communications teams to develop positioning, your purpose and core messages are critical so you have a consistent narrative and take your audiences on a journey so they believe in you, and respect you. Transparency with audiences throughout is paramount and the one thing you can control.

Getting the trust balance right, and maintaining it, is the secret of a successful brand. We live in a world where your every movement is scrutinised, and quite rightly. It doesn’t mean you will be whole heartedly trusted – is this really possible – but it will set you on the right path. Corporate trust isn’t a myth, it’s just hard to establish and maintain.

So, if the global elite want to rub shoulders with the rest of the rich and famous and have fun in the snow, whether it is economically beneficial in the long run or not, we have to expect that, to a certain extent, it won’t help the increasing trust divide between business and global citizens.