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Authenticity builds trust |


Authenticity builds trust

All of us have experienced "The Fake" personality. This is s/he who tells stories in front of our faces, no matter how well presented everything is – we just don’t believe him or her. It is the personality who says one thing and does another. It is the personality who says one thing and hides the others. The book Children of the Lie tells of how people can create lies and in time, believe their own lies to be truth – yet everyone around knows and sees that everything is not as is "broadcast or press released."

Life is all about relationships. And at the core of these strong, stable, long term relationships is TRUST. Trust is an emotional thing. We feel it. Either we trust the person or we don’t. It is about the kind of relationship we have with that person that defines the level of trust. (This is the same with relationships we build with as brands, products, institutions and companies). And trust can only be built when we are transparent and authentic with whom we are at our core, our very being. We often try to keep our cores hidden, for fear of hurt or judgments. But inevitably, its essence is released. I’d say this is the same principle as keeping a secret – inevitably, some part of this will be known. Even if only a hint, a whisper – but something will be revealed through time.

You read the papers and watch the news and you will know what I am driving at. The democratization of technology has allowed media to reveal, and media to hide. Advertising crafts images and brands, PR spin doctors tailor images. Spokespersons coat truths by giving half-truths. Majority seem not to be authentic anymore. No small wonder trust is long gone from our media, government and political leaders. And it’s not just a matter of perception. People feel it.

I came upon a research done by Edelman Public Relations Worldwide. Edelman did a year-long, worldwide study to find out what people and countries trust. The result was the Edelman Trust Barometer. Let me share with you some high points of that research.

A clear trend was the rise of trust in NGOs or not-for-profit organizations emerging at the top as the most trusted players in today’s society. Micheal Deane, Edelman vice chairman international says, "What we are seeing with NGOs is that they are willing to do what other groups aren’t: which is to work closer with business to get things done. People view NGOs as being more honest than business and government. They are willing to cooperate to whomever to get solutions and they do what they do in the interest of good – they appear to be interested in solutions for you and me, as opposed to political power or money."

Rank number two in the Edelman trust barometer goes to family, friends and colleagues as trusted for credible sources of information. There has also been a consistent trend towards what is called the Me2 channel. The source of information that people find most trustworthy are persons like them rather than TV commercials, advertising and opinion leaders. Nowadays, the opinion of a friend, a family member or a peer carries much more weight than that of yesterday’s traditional influencers. The emotional quotient here rises from the strength of authenticity and trust in the relationships formed.

Another key finding is that (at least in the United States and in Europe), CEOs have lost a lot of credibility in conveying the company’s messages. There is a deeper distrust in traditional institutions including governments (except in China). And media did not fare well either, having also lost a lot of ground.

The democratization of information with the growth of the Internet has figured greatly in the way we perceive and accept what we see, experience and think. Creating hype has already lost its effectiveness in communicating with people. Search some blogs or Internet-based journals, and you will see how people expound on their observations on what is fake excitement and what is artificial positioning. Truths about people are revealed in some way through the Internet, blogs and e-groups. For moral, ethical issues, people will always speak out from the cores of their authentic selves. People know better and modern technology empowers them to share their views. That which is hidden will be brought to light, discussed and commented on. In these blogs, authenticity is premium.

Thus, it follows that no matter how spin doctors spin their stories to make other people look good in the eyes of the majority, and where media plays with the consciousness – we are finally empowered to seek for what we would believe in and trust. We search the Internet; we ask a friend’s opinion. We gather more or less a collective indication from people we have built trust based relationships with through our life. Then we form our opinions for ourselves.

And so it is the same in the macrocosm as it is in the microcosm. As we build on expressing ourselves honestly, the more authentic we become. When we interact and relate with another authentically, trust is built. In this process, we weave the building of authentic, trust based relationships into community, and inevitably, can only get to a more open, honest world.

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