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From Brand Trust to Organisational Trust

Organisational Trust

In a nutshell

  1. Trust is more than a brand’s history or past reputation.
  2. Increasingly, people expect a brand to communicate a clear story around their vision.
  3. Showcasing your vision is a superpower because it can act as either a catalyst for trust development, or a safety net for decisions that might impact the short term.

Over the past two years, many industries have gone from the brink of disaster through to unprecedented growth.

We have been operating in trying times which has put most management teams to the ultimate test in decision making. Decisions in pressurised environments are often made fast, many are significant, and fueled with emotion. 

In these challenging times, maintaining brand trust has never been so important

TRA recently published a framework on the dimensions of organisational trust, explaining that trust is more than a brand’s history or past reputation. Trust is built as much in the current tense as in the past. Trust is developed through what is said (knowledge) and done (experience) by a brand, in every moment and every interaction with people.  

However, when the pressure is on, whether that be unprecedented growth, pressure to compete or pressure to navigate a global crisis; brand trust is put to the test. We have seen some top brands in New Zealand experience trust wobbles over the past year. Back in 2020, Air New Zealand faced harsh criticism over their handling of customers’ credits for flights they could not take. Although there was no playbook on what to do when the aviation industry is effectively shut down, Air New Zealand was slow to respond to customers, their communication lacked clarity and, as a result, trust in the brand was impacted.  

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it.”

In these challenging times of constraint, building trust is much more than relying on what has come before. It is the balance of information, action and tone that is important. However, when brands are operating without a playbook or in times of uncertainty, focusing on just the here and now is still not enough. 

Trust framework


The superpower of trust – your vision, your story  

Vision is something you, as a brand, control. Increasingly, people expect a brand to communicate a clear story; after all, no one knows your vision unless you tell it. But we often see brands forget this.  

Showcasing your vision is a superpower because it can act as either a catalyst for trust development, or a safety net for the decisions you make now that might impact the short term. An example of how important this is in practice is the 2020 Auckland water crisis.

As if lockdowns weren’t enough, Auckland was running out of water, fast. Watercare swung into action, alerting residents to the importance of saving water and the specific restrictions on use, for example, being unable to use an outdoor hose for many months.  

It was interesting to read the backlash Watercare received from the media and public. It was less about the restrictions and more about Watercare’s plan, or lack of it. How did we get here? How will we get out? Why such the sudden surprise? Couldn’t they see this coming? There was no communication from Watercare on the vision, our path out of the crisis or, at minimum, the steps that Watercare would take to navigate the city out of these restrictions. As a result, trust in the Watercare brand took a big hit. 

On the other end of the scale, I see the teams behind Auckland, Sydney, Victoria and even London’s transport infrastructure development as providing great examples of sharing the vision.  

These councils are acutely aware that new infrastructure impacts many people, creates disruption and angst. Unforeseen issues can alter even the best-made plans. So, councils invest in telling their story and setting out their vision. They add context to the here and now as they know it helps link disruption to progress. Further to this, showcasing the vision brings excitement and positive emotion to an otherwise negative citizen experience. It is this positive emotion, deeper connection and understanding of a brand that develops trust. 

Auckland's Future in Progress

Auckland’s Future in Progress is a place where the public can find out about the ways that the Auckland city centre is transforming. Auckland’s Future in Progress shares information on how Auckland is becoming a place that puts people at its heart, that is a greener, safer, better connected city centre for everyone.

Auckland's future in progress


Victoria's Big Build

An unprecedented number of transport projects across Victoria means members of the public must be kept informed of the works being carried out. Victoria’s Big Build shares information about projects and disruptions, with a dedicated communications strategy for each project.


Tomorrow's Sydney

Tomorrow’s Sydney was designed to ease user frustration and encourage change in travel behaviour and adoption of public transport, as Sydney is going through a large program of public work.

Tomorrow's Sydney

Crossrail London

Crossrail London provides up-to-date information about construction works taking place while a new rail line is built to ensure local communities are kept informed about the benefits and also the current progress and milestones.

Crossrail London

In these challenging times, consider how your brand is developing trust. Ensure you are not just trading off past performance, or even constrained in the now, but use the superpower of vision to give you the freedom to tell your story and develop long term organisational trust. 

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This article was originally published in our eleventh issue of Frame magazine. To request a copy, complete this form.


Black and white headshot of Shaun Fitzgibbon, partner at TRA
Shaun Fitzgibbon
Partner at TRA

New problems need new solutions.

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