I’ll likely do a video review of Trust Agents when I’m done but there is a reason I mention both. Chuck Klosterman happens to be one of my favorite authors. Early on in this latest book, he talks about the art of interviewing and picks apart the actual interview process, noting preconceived expectations that arise from both interviewers and interviewees. At one point, he interviews NPR’s Ira Glass (I’m also a huge, huge fan of Ira and This American Life), to dig deeper on Glass’ extraordinary ability to take seemingly minor details and moments in people’s lives and transform them to make an audience fully realize the profound impact of such moments.
“Sometimes I will be talking to journalism students and they will ask how I get people to open up to me, and the answer is that I’m legitimately curious about what those people are saying, I honestly care about the stories they are telling.”
In one word – TRUST.
Or as Brogan/Smith harp in their book, you need to be a trust agent to be an effective communicator.
For PR pros, trust is the foundation of our industry. Our clients trust our strategies and tactics. They trust us to be exceptional brand stewards and to represent their company or organization with complete honesty and transparency. On the same token, traditional journalists and bloggers alike trust the information we provide for public consumption. Social networks thrive because of trust.
Where Does Trust Originate?
To echo Mr. Glass, you have to honestly care. You have to have a legitimate interest in the client or issue you represent. Does this become difficult in PR world? Absolutely. When times are tight, firms begin to reach outside their sweet spot to soak up new business. The problem is that clients will inevitably be cheated if they are not assigned an account team that actually cares about their project. It’s one of the main reasons I love where I work. As a firm, we review new business opportunities together and make sure everyone is onboard and excited about a new client opportunity as opposed to just submitting for any RFP that comes our way.
My current primary clients include the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network and Rush University Medical Center. I love travel and am passionate about organ/tissue donation as well as healthcare marketing. If my job entailed promoting a new soap product, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t last a day and it would show in a heartbeat.
As we all know, the social Web is amazingly good at picking apart legitimate interests and sussing out those that are simply attempting to plant PR seeds. Do yourself and your clients the service of digging deep to make sure there is legitimate care and interest in a project. It’s the only way to ensure that you’re establishing the necessary foundation for trust.