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How to communicate credibly in business and why it is important for businesses to do so in order to future-proof themselves

February 15, 2018

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How to communicate credibly in business and why it is important for businesses to do so in order to future-proof themselves

By Sarah Greenidge, credibility expert and founder of WellSpoken

(www.wearewellspoken.com/)

WellSpoken is the wellness industry’s first credible content accreditation. WellSpoken also provides the wellness industry with advisory services and training around communicating credibly so they are able to reach the WellSpoken standard of excellence for wellness content.

The recently published 18th annual Edelman Trust Barometer has some important implications for corporate communicators, specifically on who, how and what consumers trust. The consumer survey showed that trust in business in general is higher than trust in government or the media, but there we still major reservations on the how well the ‘average Joe’ could trust ‘big business’.

Recent research from PFSK, the US-based market trend company, has recently reported some interesting findings on the behaviours of Gen Z (aged 5-19) when it comes to brands and organisations. Gen Z is 10 times more concerned than Millennials that brands provide educational platforms and content beyond the product or service.

So, what this means is that for the next generation of consumers, companies need to be producing more ‘added value’ content while operating in a sceptical market. No easy task.

Whether a start-up or multinational corporation, this growing sentiment can’t be ignored and organisations need to get ahead of the curve and ensure credibility is at the core of their business. At WellSpoken, we believe that there need to be certain frameworks established to guide those producing consumer content to generate credible information.

While brands and influencers have a legitimate right to promote products or services and also provide advice to consumers, we need to find a balance between talking about topics we want to share and ensuring it is credible.

However, there are a few caveats to this deal: opinions need to be robustly informed, recommendations need to be verified by people qualified in the relevant area and areas of uncertainty need to be plainly outlined.

Making sure that the principles of credibility are in place does not mean in any way that there is a hard and fast list of topics that should be restricted. Our mission at WellSpoken in to equip and empower brands and influencers to produce good quality information, communicate in a responsible manner and have credible partnerships and affiliations.

In order to do this, organisations need to take a step back and have an audit of how they currently develop content. If you provide the public with any sort of information that could impact consumer behaviour, there is a responsibility to ensure that high standards to protect consumers are maintained.

We believe that credible wellness communications fall under three pillars:

·         What you say: All claims and advice need to be substantiated by robust evidence or credible sources of information in the relevant area of expertise

·         How you say it: The language we use to convey information needs to take into account the impact certain messages can have on consumers

·         Where you say it: The medium used by businesses choose to communicate content (e.g. social media, ambassadors, blogs) need to be credible channels of communication.

While there is an infinite number of ways in which credible content can be curated, in order to future-proof any business, there are three core pillars that we believe establish a foundation of credibility when it comes to smart external communications:

1.       Editorial guidelines are vital for ensuring constituency and alignment across any content generating organisation, but it is shocking how many companies do not have concrete guidelines written on paper. Instead, a series of miss-aligned briefs are normally given to various internal or external teams. This leads to fragmented content which results in a confused consumer which creates an air of mistrust.

2.       External messaging – as well as developing some robust editorial policies it is essential to have a set of key messages so that all external communicators speak with one voice. Nothing erodes credibility like a disjointed team. Ensuring no on goes of piste is one thing, but real credibly is built when teams truly understand the value of sharing high-quality information.

3.       Independent verification of business practices and external content will play a critical role in upholding high standards. Making ethics and credibility the core of any business not only generates best practice but also contributes to an authentic reputation.

The world wide web has created a truly global landscape, where information is freely shared without borders. While this has an enormous amount of positives – an unfortunate side effect is that corporate mistakes spread like wildfire. In 2017, we saw many of the world leading brands face the harsh consequences of putting out questionable content. From backlash to boycotts, getting content wrong can have a very real impact on sales and reaching targets. Once a groundswell of public outrage starts it is incredibly hard to stop and to re-build trust.

There needs to be a paradigm shift in how brands think about communicating externally. Content generation is not just a means to end, a mechanism to generate sales or reach new audiences. Company content provides consumers with a glimmer of a business’s value system. Building credibility builds rapport, brand loyalty and ultimately better business.   

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