By Luke Bishop and Rachael Zahn, Investis Digital 

Building trust in a digital-first world is getting harder and harder.

In general, trust in brands has eroded with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Edelman’s recent Trust Barometer update, “there is marked disappointment in how the private sector has performed during the crisis. This is a moment of reckoning for business, which must now deliver on the promise of stakeholder capitalism.”

And no wonder! Businesses build trust by sharing brand values in an authentic way - creating content that connects emotionally and convincingly. According to a survey of executives conducted by Investis Digital and Forrester, only 25 percent of businesses rate themselves as very effective at consistently managing their brand values across digital channels. In addition, nearly 40 percent of businesses said that they don’t even actively manage their company brands through digital channels at all.

Connected Content: A New Blueprint

Brands need a new blueprint for telling their stories to build trust. Managing your story across many different digital channels requires bold leadership, intelligent insights, and a proactive approach. We call that approach Connected Content.

The premise of Connected Content is that businesses have, for too long, been selling themselves short by sharing meaningful, purpose-driven ideas that no one ever hears. The problem is that the digital world has become hopelessly cluttered. This is especially true in 2020, as social distancing has triggered a massive rush to embrace the digital world and topics like inclusivity, diversity and authenticity dominate the daily dialogue. No story. No voice. No trust.

How Connected Content Works

How do you have any hope of connecting with an audience now – much less building trust with them? By embracing an ethos of Connected Content. Here’s how:

  • First off, businesses must tell their brand stories through engaging and meaningful content that builds trust. These days, that content is becoming increasingly purpose driven as audiences demand that brands share their viewpoints and discuss their actions related to issues such as sustainability and social justice.
  • But it isn’t enough to just share content. A business needs to build and run intelligent websites and digital experiences that are measured and supported securely. Amid the pandemic, unfortunately, cyber security risks have increased, and they’re only going to get worse with the stakes becoming higher – sabotaging a business’s best intentions of delivering a timely message to the audiences that need to hear it.
  • Third, with a great narrative and optimized user experience, a brand must ensure audiences can find their content through performance marketing solutions that amplify across all touchpoints. We think that any investment made in great digital content should be equally matched with the investment to make sure it is seen and heard.
  • Last, to effectively manage this type of change, brands must measure it. That’s why, at Investis Digital, we recently released our new Connected.IQ benchmark report – to help global businesses understand where they are, where they need to be, and how to get there with Connected Content

The Connect.IQ Report

With over ten years of data on corporate websites and the digital landscape, Connect.IQ evaluates the corporate digital presence of global businesses from the perspective of their key audiences – investors, influencers, employees and other stakeholders - against 300 criteria that narrative, content and channel mix, optimization and amplification factors. For example, Connect.IQ examines a business’s narrative in these crucial areas:

  • How clearly a company describes its mission, vision and business basics
  • How well a company manages its reputational resilience
  • The strength of a company’s innovation and sustainability story
  • The effectiveness of a company’s content for job seekers, investors and the media.

Our latest ranking report identified some interesting challenges that show just how much work businesses have to do to create meaningful content that builds trust. We have analyzed 400 top global companies in the NYSE, NASDAQ, FTSE and Global Health listings and found that:

  • 29% of companies explain their sustainability strategy and only 24 companies provide any quantification of their sustainability ambitions.
  • 27% of companies increased their paid search spend over the last two years, and 28% utilized paid social advertising for added cross-channel visibility.
  • Only 42% of companies explain their purpose and only an alarming 1% quantify purpose-driven ambitions.

What do businesses need to do, then, to get better?

Purpose, Values, and Story

Building trust through Connected Content starts with defining your purpose, values, and story – the elements of the brand foundation that our CEO Don Scales discusses in a book he co-authored, How to Lead a Values-Based Professional Services Firm. Your purpose defines what you do. Your values define what you believe. Your story articulates the essence of your brand. These elements together form the foundation of brand trust. Before you can build trust externally, you have to create that foundation internally.

Here’s the good news: Connected Content is real and achievable. Let’s give you an example.

Anglo American has been leading in the mining world for over 100 years, starting out as a small South African business, growing rapidly into a globally renowned mining organization. But the company needed to do a better job sharing a unified message and image. That’s because the company operated 12 corporate websites managed individually by key stakeholders within each region.

The challenge was to take site visitors on a journey, not just telling them but showing them what makes Anglo American different. So, it was essential that the website be visual and dynamic with clear and concise navigation regardless of what region the user was in.

We began with a full website audit that revealed that the messaging and brand image had become diluted and needed to be reworked to represent them as the leading mining business that they are. We also identified that their commitment to sustainable mining was not well represented.

We began a revamp the sustainability section of the site. For example, we developed new localized imagery that better represented Anglo American’s mission. The content featured real people within local communities, their day-to-day lives, how they make a difference.

To prevent visitors dropping off the website, we implemented more calls to actions and several other design changes. The site was launched in July 2019. The results spoke for themselves. In its first five weeks, when compared to the same period the year before, the site saw a 49 percent increase in page views followed by a 33 percent reduction in bounce rate. In addition, users consumed 22 percent more pages, and the amount of time people spend on the site jumped 26 percent year over year.   

What’s Next? Join our Webinar

Anglo American is one of many businesses applying the concepts of Connected Content now. On Tuesday, June 23, we’re going to dig into this topic more through the lens of our Connect.IQ Report in a webinar, “The New Digital Standard Checklist.” During the webinar, we’re going to share with you more what we found with this report and how businesses can improve.

Register here