Global Resilience Summit: Why trust, values and purpose are at the heart of resilience

The rise of “belief-driven buyers” is placing greater focus on the trust consumers have in brands’ and destinations’ stances on environmental and ethical issue, the Global Resilience Summit was told.

Hugh Taggart, general manager of public relations firm Edelman, said activism among all consumers is rising a distrust in politicians grows and making trust between them and the brands they choose increasingly important.

“If I trust you I’m willing to take a risk on you,” he said, “to book a holiday at your resort or to visit your country, rather than go to a competing resort of destination.

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“I will take that decision, not because of the power of your argument, but because it is you. And if you make a mistake I won’t immediately say that’s because you are malicious, or incompetent, or you are trying to exploit me.

“We use trust as a short cut all day, every day. But people have become very demanding when it comes to earning trust. The public sets a high bar in how they expect brands to show up in their lives.”

Taggart cited research which found two thirds of people say there would switch or refuse to use a brand depending on where they stand on issues like the environment, human rights, health and safety standards and ethical supply chains.

And he said people are more likely to view their purchasing decisions as being a reflection of who they are as the parties they vote for in elections. “People are looking for companies they can buy in to, not just buy from,” Taggart said.

“They want a consumer relationship built on the basis of building brand democracy. Businesses as champions. It’s much easier to get companies and brands to act for them than it is politicians.

“Trust today is a genuine deal breaker. All this cuts across age segments, gender, income brackets in a way that’s striking. The majority of people go as far as to say that your company has to responsibly get involved in a least one social issue that does not directly impact on its business.”

However, Taggart said only around a third of people say they can trust most of the brands they buy from and one in five say they the brands they use keep the wider interests of society in mind. “There is a gulf between expectation and actual experience,” he warned.

Many firms are aware of this, but just bolting on a public relations strategy won’t work, added Taggart. “Consumers are not idiots. They know ‘woke-washing’ when they see it and lots of companies are getting it wrong.

“We are talking about the purpose of business not the business of purpose. It has to be part of the DNA of your person, your organisation or your country.

“What would the world miss if you did not exist? It’s a question your employees are asking every day. Sixty seven percent of people expect their work to have a positive societal impact, a quarter of people say they would never work for an employer that does not have a greater purpose.

“Because people have low confidence in government they are turning to their employer. Seventy six percent of people say CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait for government to impose it.

“It’s not enough to keep your heads down. Silence is not an option. It can be no longer about just maximising shareholder value. You must demonstrate your values and your company’s mission, be clear what you stand for.”

Taggart said with purpose, proactivity, – taking action by sharing information with employees – planning, and partnerships with others that have shared values, tourism organisations can mitigate the impact of any crises. “With those four Ps embedded in your armoury, I ask what could possible go wrong.”

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