How Communicators Can Build Trust to Thrive in the Challenging Era Ahead

PRSA, CCO, Laura Kane
Laura Kane, CCO, PRSA


To succeed at anything, we must earn trust and be accountable to demonstrate it to others, not just occasionally, but daily. No matter how the technology and job description of communications officers may change, our ability to create, build and maintain trust is the most important thing we do.

As the world enters the fourth industrial revolution, we are embarking upon an era that fundamentally will change the way we live, work and communicate. Its scale and scope are unknown, but one thing is certain: We must take a thoughtful approach about how we manage communications to engender trust and preserve our organization’s reputation.

The unprecedented depth and speed by which these transformations are taking place, layered on top of greater generational and cultural divisions, a sluggish economic recovery and changes in environmental protection, have resulted in social, political and economic fragilities across the world.

In the midst of, or perhaps because of, these rapid movements, “trust across business, government, NGOs and the media” dropped more than ever, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer says.

While trust in business dropped in 18 countries, 75% of respondents agreed that businesses are best positioned to drive initiatives and take actions to increase profits and improve economic and social conditions. Businesses that act responsibly and communicate effectively during this transition will thrive in the new environment, while those who don’t could find themselves with damaged reputations.

As communicators, we realize that we are at a significant inflection point, and it is time for us to use our reputation-management skills to set the stage for the difficult conversations that need to take place. We must collaborate with the CEO and senior leadership to ensure that our organization’s mission, purpose, culture, values, business strategy and operations are aligned and clearly articulated to employees, investors and customers.

We must encourage our organizations to take the lead on issues and risks facing our country by providing factual information that provides context around the complex macro environment. Most important, we must position people at the center of everything we say and do. We must address their fears, and help our companies understand the long-term implications of business decisions.

It is our job to help guide organizations to weigh the consequences of not training loyal employees for the new era. We must impart critical foresight to help mitigate the inherent risks of replacing seasoned workers with technology or cheaper labor, and carefully evaluate the impact the fourth industrial revolution will have on multiple stakeholders.

Only after we have done this can we effectively communicate the value our organizations create and build the trust needed to ensure long-term success and maintain brand equity. If we ignore this challenge, we are needlessly putting our organization’s most powerful strategic asset—its reputation—at risk.

NOTE: This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, Febuary, 27, 2017. For subscription information, please visit: