In trust we trust: keeping it human…

Image: Don't feed the humans (Brighton graffitti)
Image: Don't feed the humans (Brighton graffitti)

Took some time to read some more of What Would Google Do? today and was stopped in my tracks by some of Jeff Jarvis’s thoughts on trust, a topic which has been much on my mind in recent weeks.

Trust is more of a two-way exchange than most people – especially those in power – realise. Leaders in government, news media, corporations, and universities think they and their institutions can own trust when, of course, trust is given to them. Trust is earned with difficulty and lost with ease. When those instituions treat consituents like masses of fools, children, miscreants, or prisoners – when they simply don’t listen – it’s unlikely they will engende warm feelings of mutual respect. Trust is an act of opening up; it’s a mutual relationship of transparency and sharing. The more ways you will build trust, which is your brand.

Trust makes up much of that thing we call reputation. And when hard times come, whether you’re a brand or an individual inside or outside an organisation, it is time to test your trust.

What have you earned? What have you won and stored away for when you need to make that ask, find that opportunity, seal that deal. You never really know how much you have or where it lies – it’s outside of your awareness and your control, out there in your networks, your tribe.

It also strikes me, yet again, that the rules, the emerging successful patterns of behaviour online, are very much the same for individuals as for brands.

It’s those parallels, the elevation, the restoration, of human social rules to what makes for successful politics, commerce, culture, that make me feel it’s OK to talk about “the social web” as being more than just about social computing tools.

I’m going to write about this a lot more soon, in a book. It’s not going to be going down the “personal branding” route – helpful as that is to some people. I’ll be avoiding the b-word applied to individuals, because for me brand carries too many connotations of control and design, and that’s even less helpful and appropriate for individuals that is for big corporate brands themselves.

Anyway, more later on that…

4 responses to “In trust we trust: keeping it human…”

  1. Looking forward to reading more about this – hopefully in the finished book. It feels to me at the moment that trust has never been a more scarce thing. Hard times fuel distrust, paranoia and, apparently, the desire of those in power to rely ever more greatly on smoke and mirrors. Or brute force.(In my humble opinion.)

    At the moment I can count the number of organisations I *trust* on the fingers of half a hand (that’s had most of its digits removed in a freak accident).

    And the number of individuals in my life (beyond my closest circle of friends) who I feel will give me an *honest* opinion, or share their *real* feelings with me grows fewer by the day.

    I suppose this is what fear does.

    Even in the new network spaces, we are told to be afraid of our “digital shadows”.

    There can never be trust where there is fear. And these are scary, scary times.

  2. Interesting one this. Especially Tamsin’s comment. THought about this for a short while and realised I too have been thinking about his for the last few years off and on. Trust for me starts with myself. Being able to make decisions based on self and situational wellness is vital to being able to function every day particuarly when thinking about family and children. Beyond this, in the next domain, being able to come to consensual agreements is also vital and that requires trust, something which we’re always seeking or, we’re finding ways of living with attempts to generate it. Beyond that society at large feels like it’s demanding a new form of trust which is for me, epitomised by open source, the social web and Obama’s early pointers towards, what amounts to a new social contract. I’m not a lawyer, but trust and contract, however defined are the manifestations of the bonds of that we create. Positive bonds, not those based on fear are what I think it’s all about.

    Look forward to hearing more about the book!

  3. Was just pondering Obama in this context and see Jim’s beaten me to it!

    Absolutely – Obama represents a great LEAP of faith by millions – not just in the US either. So perhaps trust isn’t as scarce as I am suggesting.

    But I’m finding my willingness to bestow trust – and truly it’s one of the most precious gifts we give, one of the most cruel of abuses when we betray it – is increasingly grudging.

    Fear is the mind killer. I must not fear. :-)

  4. Readers Digest have just published their Trusted Brands research – the result of my better half’s labours for the last three months. Has some interesting things to say on trust:

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