By Robert Rose published August 2, 2017

The Democratization of Distrust Is Our Biggest Opportunity

democratization-distrust-opportunityDoesn’t it seem like attention is getting a lot of, well, attention?

Every day you see new strategies to increase the attention we receive from our audiences and buyers. You have “attention marketing,” a term describing a business model built around the hyper growth of social media. There is the “attention economy,” which elevates the ability to gather attention as “one of the most important currencies of the 21st century.” And, of course, we’ve talked about attention incessantly at CMI to build a business case for content marketing. Make no mistake; attention as a concept has our attention.

But you should move forward in your journey to optimize your businesses with a more important human emotion: trust.

Attention is prevalent. Stand out by building trust with your content, says @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

If attention is gold, trust is bitcoin

As the saying goes, “Trust is the hardest thing to find and the easiest thing to lose.” And today, trust is in crisis. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer found this year:

(The) general population’s trust in all four key institutions – business, government, NGO’s, and media – has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.

But you don’t need a research study to know that. You can feel it. It is an era of “fake news,” ineffective and corrupt institutions, cynical politics, duplicitous businesses, and even distrust of each other. Astonishingly, less than half of us think most people can be trusted.

While you can lament the decline in trust in our culture, as marketers you can’t ignore it. Developing a trusted relationship with your consumers is one of, if not the, most important things you must do.

Marketers can lament the decline in trust in our culture, but don’t ignore it, says @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Now, the development of trust is nothing new. We’ve been talking about how to build more trust into our marketing approach for decades. Becoming more transparent or dependable in the buying process no longer cuts it. Put simply: It is no longer adequate to begin  developing a trusted relationship after  the customer determines your product or service may be the answer.

Our world no longer starts trusting and occasionally becomes disappointed. As the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer concludes:

Two-thirds of the countries we survey are now ‘distrusters’ (less than 50% trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media, and non-government organizations to do what is right).

Less than 50% trust business, gov, media, & non-gov organizations to do what is right via @EdelmanPR. Click To Tweet

That’s right. We as consumers have become actively distrustful of every institution and brand. We have successfully democratized distrust in everything we do. But, would you like the good news?

As content marketing practitioners, this new era of distrust is our opportunity.

Be the trusted source

We’ve talked at length about how the power of content marketing to build your own subscribed audience gives you more efficient and effective access to your customers. And mostly, we talk about the benefits of content marketing being:

  • More efficient means of developing engaged leads
  • Discovery in a noisy marketplace
  • Differentiator from the competition
  • Increased customer value

But what if one of your primary benefits of content marketing was developing “most trusted” status with your consumers more broadly? What if your brand could not only be the most trusted on a topic among the competition, but the most trusted brand full stop?

Historically, we looked at publishers of trustworthy media in our space, and proclaimed, “Well, there’s no way we’re going to compete with that magazine, or that nonprofit, or that association, or that government institution.”

Except, now you can.

Trust as a metric

A few years ago, we worked with a B2B financial services institution targeting investors and advisers. We asked a sample of its target audience to rank the institution and its competition on a level of trust – both content and brand. We also asked them to rank a sampling of the top media companies in the space.

Our client company was middle of the pack when it came to trust among competitors. But, interestingly, its trust ranking was above – and in some cases well above – some of the media companies where the institution had been putting a good deal of its advertising.

Now comparing trust in the financial services brand to trust in media brands was like comparing apples and oranges. But to help it reach its “increase brand trust” goal, we set a goal for its new content marketing property – become one of the most trusted content brands in thought leadership for advisers and investors.

Recently, we found some wonderful results when we looked at benchmarking research. The brand had, indeed, risen in general trust among both its competitors and media companies. Though the owned media property and its team certainly created some of that trust, the institution’s other brand and marketing efforts have assisted here as well.

Even more interesting were the results from the content brand’s subscribers. When we queried them in terms of trust of the content brand (using the blog name) among competitors and media companies, a large degree trusted the brand more than any other competitor, and most of the media companies.

These results provide a huge business case for continuing a content marketing initiative: Develop a more trusted relationship with audiences than the content platforms where you are placing paid media.

So, I ask this – will there come a day when this institution’s ad buyer goes to a media company, shows the subscriber research, and asks, “We have a more trusted audience than you do. Perhaps you’d like to advertise with us?” Perhaps. But until then, it’s an extraordinarily important business metric to show success with its content marketing program.

Value is a trusting audience

As you can see from the example, success all comes down to the audience. All value is derived when an audience trusts the brand. The company may use this trust to leverage the trusting audience:

  • To provide data to inform other advertising and marketing efforts (Example: See how Kraft uses its platform.)
  • To be used as a pre-customer database to draw in more optimized leads (Example: See how Schneider Electric uses its Energy University platform.)
  • To provide cash or cost-savings value by bringing in partners (Example: Learn how companies like Zappos are making money with content marketing.)
  • To ensure that the brand’s TAM (total addressable market) expands (Example: Discover how Arrow Electronics is driving marketing as a business model.)

Media companies are going to double down on regaining trusted status. They must. Trust and the relationship with an addressable audience will be the only value left as advertising transforms, and formats such as subscription, native advertising, and even sponsorship replace traditional banner and skyscraper ads.

Getting attention simply doesn’t cut it any more. And holding attention doesn’t really work any longer either. And even if you hold someone’s attention, you haven’t necessarily made them care.

Getting attention simply doesn’t cut it anymore, says @robert_rose. Click To Tweet

Your opportunity is here. If you choose to act, the democratization of distrust can be the foundation of a transformation of what’s possible for your brand. Your brand’s trust no longer has to sit below media, nonprofit, or governmental institutions. You can develop the most trusted status with your consumers.

It’s up to you to be worthy of both the trust and the opportunity.

You can hear more from Robert Rose in person at Content Marketing World Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today and use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Robert Rose

Robert Rose is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory - the education and advisory group of The Content Marketing Institute. As a strategist, Robert has worked with more than 500 companies including global brands such as Capital One, Dell, Ernst & Young, Hewlett Packard, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert is the author of three books. His latest, Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has just been released. His last book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, was called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” You can hear Robert on his weekly podcast with co-host Joe Pulizzi, "This Old Marketing”. Robert is also an early-stage investor and advisor to a number of technology startups, serving on the advisory boards for a number of companies, such as Akoonu, DivvyHQ and Tint. Follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

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  • Russell Gagnon

    Test comment…

  • http://worklifeparallel.com Brian Driggs

    And yet, trust is hard. As evidenced by the lack of discussion (or typical supporting comments) on this piece.

    What an exciting opportunity to cut through the noise with a relatively unique value proposition. Methinks it stems from the personal touch, which is only possible through listening twice as much as we speak. (Thus the difficulty.)

    If we’re lucky, more than a few genuinely caring brands will combine true, account-based methodologies with content to build wholesome relationships that engender trust at scale.

    As marketeers, we have the power to change the world. How we change it is entirely up to us.

    Keep up the good fight, Sir Robert.

    • http://www.adaptivemarketer.com Robert Rose

      Brian… As always thank you my friend. You nailed it. It’s our opportunity- and we’ll see if we can take up the opportunity. I have high hopes – and will continue the quest. And LOL that you remembered the knighthood thing… Thank you for the great comment…

      • http://worklifeparallel.com Brian Driggs

        Only wish I could do so more often!

        Call me crazy, but I feel like you guys took up the mantle of trust long ago. How else would CMI have grown to be what it is today?

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    I hope agencies and businesses are paying attention to this message. The difference between quality content that is fairly expensive to produce and cheap content is ACCURACY. Those who take the cheap route will end up damaging their trusted status because of inaccuracies in what they publish. Let this be a warning to you. Accuracy takes more time, so accurate content costs more. You get what you pay for, so don’t go cheap at the risk of your business reputation.

    • http://www.adaptivemarketer.com Robert Rose

      I hope so too Gail. Agencies are right in the same bucket with everyone. That trust – whether they are helping a client, or developing it themselves is the most important thing they can do today. Thank you so much for the comment.