Watch one of the most popular sessions from the 2020 OmnichannelX Conference, free.
Who can we trust – and how do our users invest their trust?
In her OmnichannelX keynote address, Margot Bloomstein, of Appropriate, Inc., looks at the current sentiment of mistrust for brands, organisations, and institutions, and how to overcome it by transforming your brand into a beacon of trust.
Margot says that in the absence of trust, cynicism takes hold, and your audience begins to doubt their ability to make good decisions. When this happens
- marketing falls flat,
- sales cycles take longer, and
- most messages don’t produce the desired outcome.
If we don’t establish trust with our audience, everything else we do is a waste of time, budget, and effort. We should affirm our audience’s interest in learning, and their enthusiasm for feeling knowledgeable.
To empower your audience, develop authority, and build trust in your brand, Margot provides us with the “three V” recipe of Voice, Volume, and Vulnerability.
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More free content from the 2020 conference:
- Build your brand authority by bringing something unique to the table: your voice. Show what you know and deliver it in a way that’s both consistent and unique.
- Prove that you’re audience-centric by adjusting the volume of content that you deliver to enable users to make good decisions in their lives. No more, no less.
- Own your beliefs and mistakes. When we’re willing to be vulnerable, we show audiences who we really are. That transparency fosters trust.
Voice – Build your brand authority
A brand’s voice is the distinct personality that manifests both visually and verbally in everything your brand does. We use our brand voice to develop authority, and it is rewarded by the audience in the form of trust.
To begin explaining the elements that develop authority in your brand voice, Margot takes the audience back to Pre-Renaissance Europe, and a trading merchant named George Giese.
Unlike his predecessors in the trading industry, George Giese did not haul his goods from town to town to trade them in markets and fairs. Instead, he ran export and import businesses across Europe and relied on people who lived in the cities to send him periodic updates about the economic conditions, competition, and more. They established authority and trust by having information that was unique, consistent, and persistent over time. His voice became synonymous with accurate, always growing knowledge.
Margot then demonstrates how it applies in modern-day business, using Mailchimp as an example.
In the beginning, Mailchimp relied heavily on Freddie the Chimp, their mascot, and copy was written in first-person. Over time, Mailchimp grew from a small business to a large corporation, and now handles 60% of the world’s email marketing traffic. As they grew, they wanted to mature their brand, without alienating their existing customers, so Mailchimp maintained aspects of their brand while letting it evolve, and Freddie is less of a focus.
Margot explains that Mailchimp has established trust with their customers by remaining consistent with key aspects of their voice, such as using first-person for copy, while allowing room to mature and evolve over time.
By building a strong voice into your brand’s style guidelines, and maintaining it as a key strategic business asset, your voice will
- support brand growth
- benefit your content creators, and
- build strong relationships with your audience.
Volume – Finding the right length and detail for your audience
How do you know how much to say on a topic? How do you determine how much content is enough? Margot suggests to the audience that you will know you have offered enough detail when your audience is able to make good decisions and feel good about the decisions they make. She provides real world examples of adjusting content volume to meet the needs of your audience by discussing content from Americas Test Kitchen, Crutchfield, and Gov.UK.
Americas Test Kitchen
The content from Americas Test Kitchen varies in volume depending on the channel and audience – such as recipes on Instagram being clear, concise, and to the point with step-by-step instructions only, whereas the same recipe on their website could be more detailed with historical information on ingredients and more.
Crutchfield educates their users utilizing techniques like
- long-form content pages
- extensive detail and comparison images
- varying content types to support different learning styles and preferences.
Both brands empower their audiences through consistent, cohesive and optimized content that’s volume is appropriate for the channel, message, and user.
In another example, Margot discusses how Gov.UK evaluated and audited their nine owned websites and reduced the number of pages of content from over 75,000 to just 3,000 pages that focus only on things that only government could address. 96% of content was removed, and users were delighted. This demonstrates that quality and clear focus definitely trump quantity when it comes to delivering trust.
To measure the success of your content volume, Margot offers several options, including
- focus groups – really talk to users
- reviewing return rates if you sell goods, and
- auditing the effort users have to invest – clicks, page views, calls, minutes, days- to get the information they need.
Vulnerability – Finding the strength to be open
The smartest brands grow stronger not by self-aggrandizing or projecting false bravado, but by owning their mistakes and embracing vulnerability.
Buzzfeed and Penzeys
Margot says that by demonstrating vulnerability, you expose your brand to criticism, input, and risk, in the hope of reaping greater rewards in terms of customer loyalty. Vulnerability should not be confused with weakness, instead, it is putting your brand out there, providing hard truths, and being transparent. She provides two examples:
- Buzzfeed’s willingness to prototype a new product by rolling out a beta publicly and encouraging input from their entire audience. Users feel closer to the brand because they’re made active participants in solution delveopment.
- Penzeys Spices took a clear position on immigration, racism, and other issues during the 2016 US presidential election. Online sales increased by 50% immediately after.
Both brands opened the door to potential criticism, ridicule, and unhappy customers, but in doing so, they demonstrated their vulnerability, their values, and their personalities.
Zoom CEO, Eric Yaun
In a more recent example, Margot discussed a blog post which she referred to as “a model in building trust through vulnerability”, written by Eric Yaun, the CEO of Zoom. In 2020, due to the covid-19 pandemic related lockdown, Zoom virtual meetings rapidly increased from 10 million to over 200 million meetings per day, straining the system and creating issues. Margot explains that instead of pointing out that users weren’t using passwords or waiting room features, which would have just stoked anger in an attempt to deflect blame, Eric wrote a blog post in which he explained what happened in a level of detail that demonstrated respect for his audience’s intelligence. Then he offered a plan for accountability and resolution from his brand. His response was swift, detailed, and transparent, earning trust while confronting trouble.
Margot reminds us that despite all the reasons to be cynical, most audiences still have hope, and we can design our way out of cynicism. With the right voice, volume, and humble vulnerability, we can still build trust.
About Margot Bloomstein, Appropriate, Inc.
Margot was the keynote speaker at OmnichannelX 2020
Over the past two decades, Margot Bloomstein has emerged as one of the leading voices in content strategy. She’s the author of Content Strategy at Work (2012), the principal of Appropriate, Inc, and the author of a forthcoming book about how brands can build trust through content and design. Margot developed BrandSort and the message architecture-driven approach to content strategy now popular with many practitioners. Her work shapes the communication of corporate social responsibility at Timberland, crisis response content at Harvard University, and strategy for cultural tourism in Nevada.