Don’t judge a book by its cover, a wise aphorism that I’m sure everyone can affirm with multiple real life experiences, however, that’s exactly what I find myself doing whenever I enter a bookstore. It may be the marketing of the store, publishers, or book cover design that leads consumers to decide whether or not they make a purchase. Design and marketing explanations aside, the point here is that although we know that we ought not to make quick assumptions and judgements about things, we do, often subconsciously with information that has little relevance.
A study on first impressions conducted by Harvard Business professor Amy Cuddy along with psychologists Susan Fiske and Peter Glick, determined that people decide whether they like one another within 3 seconds of meeting. According to the research we evaluate measures or warmth and competence in others in order to answer two questions: Can I trust this person, and can I respect this person? And while we’d like to be judged on our character, or even our competence in professional settings, that often does not happen until we’ve established trust.
This process is explored further in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, where he examines the idea of thin-slicing, a term used in psychology where people make quick inferences based on minimal amounts of information. The interesting part is that these judgements are often as accurate if not more than longer considerations based on more extensive information.
With this mind, it makes sense as an individual to work on making a good first impression and establishing genuine trust in order to get to a point where they are judged on their character. This does not mean you should go about manipulating people into believing you are a trustworthy or warm person when you’re not, it means to being aware of and managing perceptions. The same is applied to companies, though they often rely on public relations firms to manage their brand for them, the same issues surrounding trust are present.
According to PwC’s US CEO Survey, businesses must build trust in order to win their customer’s confidence. This means going beyond traditional factors, or relying on the product or service on its own and authentically communicating your company’s purpose. The survey indicates that over the next five years, a greater number of consumers will seek out brands that address wider stakeholder concerns such as social and environmental responsibility. Our goal is to connect brands with the people who are affected by them.
For a company that is thin-sliced and perceived as less trusted, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate negative perception and work toward building a more reliable brand. We suggest that they work to authentically explain their purpose, keep promises consistently, and have the ability to recognize and correct mistakes. Like in our individual encounters, trust is about clear communication and transparency. Now the challenge is, how can we determine whether or not we are perceived as trustworthy?
Technologies like Orenda are able to identify online chatter related to trust and evaluate what is being said, but evaluating the source was a problem we had not considered. By embedding cognitive APIs developed by IBM Watson such as Personality Insights, we are now able to reduce the time needed to evaluate the people, companies, and institutions behind the online data that determines how trustworthy a brand might appear. Language patterns and key word analysis can tell us what values are important to people, combined with natural language processing and a PR brain, our product continues to evolve to help companies build trust with their key publics by focusing on how their actions impact society. One of our specialties is measuring how trustworthy a brand is based on what people are saying on social media, we are creating methods for measuring trust according to societal perception.