Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creating a Culture of Candor

A new poll by Harris Interactive shows that St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are among the most trusted nonprofits.  The two charities also rank in the top ten for "nonprofits to which people are most likely to donate." 
According to the poll, "one of the most critical elements of a non-profit's brand name is Trust. The trust that the general public places in non-profits is paramount to their success as enduring and powerful brands. Those that deliver well on their promises and missions stand the test of time," noted Justin Greeves, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Harris Interactive. "In the context of this brand evaluation, Trust should be viewed as both a concrete organizational trait and a point of emotional connection with supporters and those in need of help and assistance".
The study also seem to suggest that there is a strong correlation (maybe even causal link) between consumer trust in a nonprofit and likelihood to donate.  Makes sense.  So here's the question. If trust is an essential ingredient in creating a thriving (and profitable) organization, how do you create it?  

According to Transparency, a very interesting set of essays by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, James O'Toole, and Patricia Ward Biederman building trust is a long-term process and has to be built into the very fabric of an organization's culture.  Moreover, trust building is an ethical responsibility of both followers and leaders in an organization.

In their first essay, Creating a Culture of Candor, the authors suggest that trust is dependent on the free flow of information in an organization.  They also talk about the role of digital technology, in particular blogs, in forcing organizations to become more transparent.
"Blogs can do far more than reveal secrets.  They are able to spread information virally at stunning speed...Blogs can blindside and cause damage to companies as well as individuals...No leader can  afford to ignore such a force...[In short], blogs are uniquely powerful tools for promoting products, brands, and ideas, but they can also be ruthless and all but unstoppable in punishing what they disapprove of.  And as their numbers soar, blogs will only get more powerful."
Is your organization trustworthy?  Are you open about your triumphs and failures?  Do you share critical information widely and with various stakeholders?  In short, are you on the level and do you keep people in the loop? 

Rather than wait for your secrets to be revealed by the digerati, why not start now and create a culture of candor where both leaders and followers practice the fine art of speaking the truth.  According to Harris Interactive's research, this will build your brand equity.  It may also create a powerful economic incentive for people to give more money to your organization.



Larry Checco said...

I thoroughly agree. Trust is the bedrock of any good brand.

If I don't trust an organization to do the right thing, why on Earth would I want to do business with it or be involved with it under any circumstances--either as a consumer of its goods, services and products or as a donor.

Trust cannot be bought with advertising, marketing or public relations dollars. Rather, it must be earned over time by living up to what your advertising, marketing and PR say about it.

A good organization also does not only concern itself with garnering the public's trust. It must also earn the trust and respect of its employees. Why? Because a disgruntled workforce is an organization's worst nightmare. Instead of serving as good Brand Ambassadors, disgruntled workers often bad-mouth the organization. And we all know how fast and powerful word of mouth is, exacerbated these days by online social networks.

Unfortunately the concept of trust has eluded many of our primary social institutions, including many of our government agencies, corporations, financial institutions, nonprofits, and dare I say even some of our most venerated religious institutions.

And there's a high price to pay when trust is no longer the bedrock foundation upon which an organization is trying to build and maintain a positive brand. Trust me on that.

Checco Communications

Mazarine said...

Trust is an important component of a brand.

However, it's not just about candor. It's about accessibility and responsibility.

Is your nonprofit leadership accessible? Are they making an effort to post to the nonprofit blog? Is there a video with them on your website? Do people feel that they have the mission of the nonprofit at their heart? Are they good storytellers? This is accessibility.

When it comes to responsibility, are your nonprofit leaders doing everything they can to show they are working hard at fundraising, at earning your trust?

It's more than disclosing financials. It's about showing the work that you're doing through video, words, pictures, letters of support, testimonials, and continuing to show this.


Andy Strauss said...

Thank you for providing such a thoughtful post, I really enjoyed it.Your have great insight about the subject of your post. Your blog is really excellent.

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