How to lose the public’s trust in five easy steps

atm_BofT1Respect, as we’ve heard in countless Hollywood movies, can’t just be given; it has to be earned. Trust, on the other hand, can be bought. We are surrounded daily by brands we trust from our own experience or from their long investment in years of advertising. And that trust builds by increments. Think of it as insurance or a savings account at the Bank of Trust.

When a crisis hits, that savings account will get drawn down faster than an equity account at Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

We recognize that businesses have to build trust, either from customers, regulators or the general public, if they plan to be around for awhile. That aura of reliability, that expectation of value or that confidence the job will get done right, is built one sale after another. An inventive, strategic marketing plan, with strong messages aimed at the right audiences, can help the investment in trust-building earn a higher rate of return. But the steps along the way, one after another, still have to be taken.

Unfortunately, it can all come crashing down in a matter of days. Whether it’s a black-swan crisis or a gradual erosion, a loss of trust for a business can be fatal. And while the average trustifarian might find an unexpected drawdown in his bank account “a bit annoying,” loss of trust in a business can come from a variety of sources, all of which can be prevented.

Since few of us have access to a functioning crystal ball, here are five ways a business can lose its hard-earned trust in a matter of days or weeks.

1.) Share information with the outside world on a need-to-know basis only. It’s your business and it’s complicated with lots of moving parts. You’ve never needed to tell stakeholders how you get things done in the past, why start now?

2.)  Ignore the cranks. Any business that faces the outside world will have to deal with the angry, the uninformed and the righteous. Your first instinct is to ignore them and hope they go away, so that’s what you do. And some will go away, but others will see a “Closed” sign as a personal challenge.

3.) Limit your social media activities to investor relations filings and HR recruitment. It’s impossible to keep up with all the chatter on Twitter anyway, so best leave it to the kids.

4.) When you do speak to the public, drop in plenty of jargon and arcane acronyms so people will know you are an expert in your field.

5.) When something bad happens at your business, wait a couple of days before saying anything and then argue that it wasn’t your fault.

I’ve seen far too many examples of every one of these situations and the damage that was done. Some businesses managed to recover, others did not, but the fact is, it can all be avoided. Drop me a line and we can talk about damage prevention at your business.