Trust is the Bedrock Beneath Every Lead With We Business — Part 4 “Inventorying The Ingredients of Trust

Photo Provided By Christine Roy

This post is the fourth in a series of eight that examines the bedrock beneath every Lead With We business: Trust that builds reputation, culture, sales, and loyalty during a time of crisis.

Lead With We businesses that best build consumer confidence and trust do so not by strictly selling stuff — but by influencing society. They don’t just market — they lead movements that matter.

Their initiatives are merely tactical and temporary. Their efforts are not positioned as reactive, one-off, or seasonal. If you’re just jumping on some bandwagon for the sake of it, consumers will definitely see it that way. Much “cause marketing,’’ for example, might be considered counterfeit, with credibility sought on the coattails of another reputable charity, nonprofit, competitor, or sociopolitical/cultural movement.

To maximize trust among your employees, customers, and the beneficiaries of your movement, the goal itself cannot be simply image-driven (Let’s try to look better to conscious consumers), not only to drive brand awareness (Let’s harness people’s legitimate concerns just to peddle stuff), nor to emotionally manipulate people into increasing direct sales results.

Remember, a movement requires action, not just words, to be authentic, defensible, and impactful. And it can’t be a short-term commitment. Either you’re in for the duration, or don’t bother. If you’re thinking of a one-off, think again.

For proof of this, look no further than Pepsi’s 2017 Kendall Jenner ad the company intended to use to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Rather than inspire global unity and peace, the ill-advised ad spawned scorching criticism accusing Pepsi of “appropriating imagery from serious protests to sell its product, while minimizing the danger protesters encounter and the frustration they feel.”

It’s not that ALL such CSR or CM efforts are self-directed and disingenuous, but rather brand storytelling should be a direct function of a company’s purpose, which infuses all parts of the company, from its founding and raison d’être through to its impact efforts. And those efforts are better communicated when framed in ways that reflect the whole of the We the business is legitimately serving — from employees to consumers, from communities to culture at large, from partners to future generations.

These are the dynamics to leverage to drive engagement, participation, and amplification, which in turn allows you to scale your impact. How? It’s all fueled by the trust occasioned by the public’s sense of your authenticity.

Some Lead With We brands build their trust and legitimacy by their end products themselves, the tangible proof of their purpose, and demonstrable commitment to contribute positively to an imperative problem in the world, over time. Others get involved in greater movements in culture, such as helping ameliorate inequality, injustice, or the environmental emergency.

In either case, when those products, services, or community engagement efforts are developed for and With a wide We, with the purpose of serving society by solving some meaningful problem that matters to people, trust is the invisible engine that drives the community movement.

So, whether responding to existential threats to come (the climate crisis, civil unrest, public health, etc.) or weighing the relative risks and reward of taking a stand on a key social, political, environmental, etc. issue, here maybe the first rapid response question to ask yourselves when setting goals for your movement mapping is:

Have we the right, the credibility, to act on this issue? Is it our history that establishes our relevance to speak to this challenge or set this goal? Is it the composition of our staff? Our customer base? Our location? Our product/service? The communities we serve? Our customers’ concerns? Where’s the moral imperative? Why should the world trust us? Because if it looks like we’re just hawking soda — we’re going to suffer.

Instead, we need to be authentic, develop our response With our whole community, leverage existing assets in the field, and tell the story through the beneficiaries of our impact.

To maximize trust, both internal and external, consider asking these questions about the movements you wish your business to Lead:

  • What’s the aspirational end state toward which we’re driving? What do we want to ultimately achieve together?
  • Why are we doing this work? Is the answer clearly and consistently understood by everyone participating? Who are we serving through this work? Who are the ideal partners to collaborate With?
  • Who are the right internal people to Lead? Given it’s nonnegotiable to get our internal house in order before any outreach to the world beyond your doors, we must ask: Who inside the organization ought to supervise the goal-setting discussions? To rally internal teams? To navigate the relevant partnerships? To create and curate the storytelling? Who is our spokesperson? Have we heard from dissenters or concerns and understood their reasoning?
  • What voices must be at the decision-making table? Should someone be the “final voice” in the decision, or will our goals be set by some kind of consensus?
  • What resources are we willing to put behind our proposed commitment(s) over both the short- and long terms?
  • To what extent have we examined what our competitors and others inside and outside our space are saying/doing, and do we know why? What success have they achieved? Have past efforts failed, and can we identify why? Anyone we can work with on getting to a shared goal?
  • How is the goal also commensurate with what our company does/provides best, in our space? Would our commitment to this goal or response make sense to a sixth-grader without a lot of explaining?
  • Have we prepared for an internal town hall meeting to discuss the issue / proposed goal? In what other ways are we sharing our goals/responses with constituents inside and out?
  • What vulnerabilities might our response or goal expose the company to?
  • How deeply do we understand the issue? This isn’t just a kneejerk reaction to something we only superficially grasp, is it?
  • Are we connected with subject-area experts on this issue to help us navigate our response or formulate a longer-term goal? What about outside agencies, experts, benchmarkers, academics, regulators, etc. who might be able to provide guidance?
  • What are our strategies and tactics now for sharing our efforts with the public? What’s our underlying intention in such publicity? Is it possible/probable/likely that our resources, participation, and storytelling can help fuel a movement?
  • To what extent are we willing and prepared to work With our external community and partners on this issue? We’re not just prescribing to them, are we? Where do we want our impact to land, and are we hearing that goal from the We — or are we telling them?
  • Are we clear that our business doesn’t “own” this movement, but it’s fully collaborative among all stakeholders? Brands either get invited or earn permission to participate in movements. Especially among organic, grassroots movements, which are suspicious of corporations and their motives. We should follow the lead of Ben & Jerry’s — by the way, activists and advocates who happen to sell ice cream — and set our agenda, design our participation by what field experts, partners, and leaders in the trenches share with us that they need.
  • How — in what specific and meaningful ways — are we going to measure our headway/regression/impact?

During times of special and unexpected crisis or emergency (increasingly becoming the norm, even if we take COVID-19 out of the picture), we might further ask, first:

  • How do we put our purpose to work in relevant and meaningful ways during this crisis?
  • How can our purpose support our employees given the circumstance?
  • How can our purpose build resilience into our company culture?
  • How can our purpose deepen customer loyalty and build our reputation, grow our brand community?
  • Will the world look back and see that we showed up as an authentic and impactful leader when it was needed most?




Founder/CEO brand consultancy, We First, bestselling author of We First and Lead With We, host of podcast, Lead With We.

Recommended from Medium

6 tactics that helped us increase our Instagram following by 13,500%

What is a Micro-Influencer and How Are They Helpful?

Have You Ever Thought About having Starting A Public Domain Business

Is Your Marketing Copy Lacking in Storytelling? Reading this will help you!

Storytelling for Better Marketing

How Does Groove CRM Compare To Shopify & ActiveCampaign? Get Free Access Today!

Mistakes Newbie Copywriters Make That Keep Them From Earning Over $2000 In a Month Or Less And How…

Now Is The Best Time To Load Your Social Media Platforms With Contents

The Journey of Shelf Scout

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Simon Mainwaring

Simon Mainwaring

Founder/CEO brand consultancy, We First, bestselling author of We First and Lead With We, host of podcast, Lead With We.

More from Medium

COMMUNICATING FOR ACTION: How Social Organizations can Trigger the Public to Act

5 1/2 Questions for Tim Kelley

Meat alternatives — A shift in consciousness or a shift in marketing.

Behind the B Corp Way consultant’s work: what it takes to transform your business’ impact and…