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A dark red background with no image on it.

I have helped a lot of brands articulate their promise. One important dimension of a brand is its personality or tone and manner or a concept I prefer, charisma. Charisma intends to help build a relationship with the customer through human characteristics.

In some of our workshops, there is always one inevitable question, “Shouldn’t trustworthy be a part of our list of charisma attributes?â€

Everybody would love to have trustworthiness be a part of how the audience thinks of you. Right?

Right, but the difference is that doing what you say through your public actions earn trust rather than just saying it is an attribute amongst others. Public actions like earnings. Awards. Rankings. Expert status. Lawsuits. Executive behavior. Response to Internet reviews and so on. Most of these are traditionally the territory of public relations and public affairs. These individual public actions-or lack thereof- shape perceptions just as surely as your website and advertising.

Too be completely effective in accomplishing your business objectives, think this: a rising tide lifts all boats. All things should work together for good.

Your public actions have to connect to a brand process that intends to define how you wish to influence your audiences to choose you. Messaging is the most obvious connection point.


In just a short while, the highly touted, highly recognized and well-thought-of Enron went from the pinnacle of American business to out of business. Their public actions-and particularly their apparent bacchanalian culture-sprang a leak the size of Russian territorial ambitions and it was deservedly below the waterline.


The opposite result happened to Johnson and Johnson over the Tylenol scare. J&J, a brand that stands for care, took immediate action to not only salvage, but strengthen its trust claim. J&J realized the criticality of trust and went to great lengths to restore it.


An example of a public action that created internal trust was the announcement by Southwest Airlines that it wouldn’t lay off any workers during an upsurge in oil prices. Other airlines did the exact opposite. I don’t know how a company could have earned more respect from its employees than Southwest did. Will it last? Trust must be earned at every point of contact every minute of every day. Trust takes years to earn and minutes to lose.

One point to keep in mind: don’t forget social media. Conversations about you are happening at all hours on social media. It is an immediate barometer of where you stand and can offer a channel for telling your story.

At the end of the day, the level of trust you earn depends on your character as it picks up its briefcase or backpack and goes to work in the public square.