Why Brand Trust is Key in a ‘Fake News’ Era

In a world where the lines have blurred between truth and fiction, winning consumers’ trust is more critical than ever before.
Earn trust from consumers by giving trust and doing business with them. (Photo: Thinglass/Shutterstock)

Almost daily we hear the phrase “fake news” or learn about some person or organization spinning the truth to suit their own agenda. The term “post truth” has advanced as a description of this time in which facts have become less important than emotional persuasion.

In his 2004 book “The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life,” Ralph Keyes wrote, “In the post-truth era, borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and nonfiction… The result is a widespread sense that much of what we’re told can’t be trusted.”


“To earn ‘goodness-driven growth,’ businesses can define customer relationships based on guidance, transparency, clarity and consistent communication.” -Jeanne Bliss (Photo: Jeanne Bliss)

While these hot-button topics are certainly shaking up the media and political spheres, casual deception is also impacting the marketplace. Trust has become one of the strongest drivers in how consumers choose products and services and decide which organizations they want to support.

To explore this issue, NCR Silver interviewed Jeanne Bliss, author of “Would You Do That To Your Mother?: The ‘Make Mom Proud’ Standard for How to Treat Your Customers,” to learn more about why consumer trust is essential to building a successful brand for your small business.

How does this “post-truth” trend impact how consumers view messages from businesses?

“There’s a distinct shift in how people decide which companies they trust, connect with and choose to take a chance on. The lens through which a potential customer will consider a company has narrowed, as the newest breed of consumers (millennials, etc.) now need proof of companies’ values and want to ‘know’ them before they buy or commit.”

Related: How to Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Brand

Why is brand trust so essential to a small business’ success?

“[Trust] reaches into every part of our lives, from personal relationships to the companies who earn our trust by trusting us first. CEOs and thought leaders have the opportunity to win trust through knowledge, advice and guidance, as noted in Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Report. I call this the ‘high road’ approach to growth. To earn ‘goodness-driven growth,’ businesses can define customer relationships based on guidance, transparency, clarity and consistent communication.”

In what ways can small business owners earn their customers’ trust in such an environment?

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‘Would You Do That To Your Mother?: The ‘Make Mom Proud’ Standard for How to Treat Your Customers’ by Jeanne Bliss. (Photo: Portfolio/Penguin)

“This is an opportunity for smart business owners. Simple gestures cost basically nothing and ultimately help distinguish your business from others. For example:

  • Get rid of any surprise fees or fine print. Rewrite everything you send to customers with ‘plain talk.’ Check everything you give customers for readability and ease of understanding.
  • Reverse any practices that feel like ‘Gotcha!’ moments for customers. These are things like surcharges that kick in after a period of time, extra fees for items or late fees, etc. These practices make customers feel marginalized and manipulated.
  • Empower your people to make decisions. Don’t be so rigid that you hold them to hard-and-fast rules. Hire people whose values align with yours and trust them to make a call that is right for keeping customers happy.”

What is your advice for small business owners working to build brand trust?

“Take the opportunity to earn trust by giving trust. Implicit in every customer relationship is a contract of trust. Customers trust that the company will do what it promised, and they seek that trust in return in how the company chooses to do business with them.

“Do you deliberately trust customers for their trust in you? Do you trust them in your forms, paperwork and contracts? Are there any clues you give that suggest a lack of trust? Might your customers ever think, ‘They don’t seem to trust me?’ We need to work on these moments, and conduct brave, clear and transparent communication to earn customers’ preference and loyalty, no matter how many choices arise.

Related: The Friend Zone: Boosting Sales by Focusing on Relationships

“When we’re treated with kindness and compassion, the quality of our experience is enhanced. I still believe that most people do the right thing. That is at the heart of what I call ‘Make Mom Proud’ companies. Most people and companies are grounded in the values we learned as kids… Through leadership guidance and company actions, [these] companies are establishing more balanced relationships, where both sides win.”

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