Want to build trust for your brand? Look to your leadership.

If you are a CEO or a leader of a brand / company / organization, you know how important it is for your clients and customers to trust you. Newsflash: we are still living in a trust economy, and the stats around it continue speak for themselves. 90% of people trust a product or service recommendation from people they know, yet only 33% trust a message from a brand. It’s no longer enough to push ads and promotions onto current or potential customers – if you want people to buy into your brand, you must connect with them in a way that makes them feel heard and safe. A human to human connection is what will make you stand out above the rest.

What you may not understand, however, is that as a leader, YOU are also a brand. The way you present yourself as an individual, i.e. your personal blog, social channels, speaking engagements, etc. has an impact on your brand for the following reasons:

  • Consumers today inherently distrust brands – and they will do their research before deciding to make purchase decisions. The good news is that they do trust people. As the leader of your organization, your clients and customers will look to you to lead the way when it comes to positioning your brand as trustworthy.
  • Your personal brand isn’t just about promoting yourself, it is directly connected to how people perceive the value of your business. The value you bring to the table as an individual will directly reflect on your brand.

The Facebook Problem

When news came out in March 2018 about the Cambridge Analytica data breach that caused Facebook to come under fire, the public immediately looked to CEO Mark Zuckerberg to provide some insight and reassurance that the issue would be fixed and not happen again. After taking a silence so long it made headlines of its own, he finally offered up an apology that many say was inadequate, especially from a CEO with such a public presence.

“The thing that sets Facebook apart [from other tech companies,] is that Mark and Sheryl [Sandberg] are brands themselves … they’re pretty widely recognized. They have strong personal brands and people expect to hear from them when Facebook is in crisis,” a top Facebook executive told CNN Money.

When leaders don’t speak out about important issues in a timely manner, it can cause mistrust and confusion from the public, which in turn can cause mistrust for your brand. Don’t be the Zuckerberg in this case!

Using power for good

To be an empowered and trustworthy leader, it’s important to have a voice and take a stand on issues that matter. Alison Herzog, Director, Global Social Business & Digital Strategy at Dell, explains why:


“The reality is that with great power comes great responsibility. One of the greatest honors for those with power is use to use that power for good. I take this very personally as I consider my own actions and the actions of key leaders at brands that I may or may not want to do business with. There is no separation of a person at work and a person at home in today’s digital world.”



Alison’s Advice for Leaders:

Brands are built up of humans. Our customers are human. So, if we consider that we are all humans and have an innate desire to connect and find meaning, the most effective way to build a brand with resonance and impact is to let it be human and through that lens communicate real mission and purpose.

The most impactful way to build an effective brand is to let your brand be human and to effectively communicate real purpose. - @alisonjherzog #leadership Click To Tweet

Example: SAP

The CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, is a great example of a leader using his power for good and to create change. In this clip from Good Morning America, Bill explains SAP’s pledge to plant 5 million trees by 2025, and why he’s always believed in giving back. I don’t know about you, but seeing this inherently makes me see SAP as a trustworthy brand, because its leader believes in causes that are important and actually acts on them.

The fine line on taking a stance

While it’s important for leaders to speak up on important topics and take a stance on issues, keep in mind that this should be done very carefully so as not to cause any backlash against your company.


“While honesty and transparency are essential, leaders need to realize that a taking stand may also permanently alienate a certain part of the population, and perhaps even turn into a backlash against a product or company. This decision must be well-thought-out because there is no going back!” – Mark Schaefer, author, speaker, and executive branding coach



Mark’s Advice for Leaders:

My advice is simple to understand but less easy to execute: Be More Human. Trust in companies, brands, and ads have declined for 10 consecutive years. But people trust people. To the extent that a company can communicate in a truly human way, like hearing from a friend instead of a lawyer or press release, the company has a chance to build real connection and trust.

To the extent that a company can communicate in a truly human way, like hearing from a friend instead of a lawyer or press release, the company has a chance to build real connection and trust. - @markwschaefer #trust Click To Tweet

Do you have your own tips for leaders when it comes to building trust for their brands? Drop us a line on social media or connect with us to share!