Combatting the Trust Crisis Through Competent Service

brand trust crisis

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” 

— Nelson Mandela 

If you read Harvard Business Review, you may have noticed a recent article titled The Trust Crisis. While largely focused on earning and sustaining stakeholder trust, the article makes a few very salient points about why – and how – companies must create and activate brand promises. Specifically, the authors Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta call out a few specific ways in which customers, investors, employees, and society evaluate the trustworthiness of brands.

They ask:

  1. Is the company competent?
  2. Is the company motivated to serve others’ interests as well as its own?
  3. Does the company use fair means to achieve its goals?
  4. Does the company take responsibility for all its impact?

As we think about each of these questions in turn, one thing comes immediately to mind. The simplest answer to the individual questions and collective consideration is this:

Are we building a brand that adds to the world and
are we activating that brand through our decisions and behaviors? 

To answer that two-part question honestly may be as simple as looking at our weekly calendar and billing reports. (At Watchword, we color-code our calendars so we can see where we are dedicating time to heads-down work, learning, nurturing relationships, and serving through our skills.) These tools offer visual snapshots of how we are actively building a brand that adds to the world by focusing on creating value for others. As we meet, we ask how we have lived out our core values of Acting Generously and Remembering Humanity. Our goal is to make sure that if a client, partner, or peer ever asks the four trust questions of us, we can honestly say yes to each – with proof.


Brand Competency and Trust Through Service

Our last post Why we serve nonprofits was a testimonial from one of our longest-tenured team members, Brianna. She came to us from the nonprofit CARE, and has been a leading voice in our Watchword Gives initiative. Through the program, we work with one nonprofit at a time providing pro bono or low bono branding, marketing, and creative services depending on what the nonprofit needs. (You can learn more about that here.) 

As the HBR Trust Crisis article so aptly concludes, “It’s not always possible to make decisions that completely delight each of your stakeholder groups, but it is possible to make decisions that keep faith with and retain the trust they have in your company.”

Keeping faith with and retaining trust are things we take seriously. So when we get testimonials from nonprofit partners that talk about how “Watchword differentiates itself through collaboration…[and] truly understands how to collaborate and was the firm for us to launch our new strategic plan and continued vision,” we are grateful to know that we are succeeding in the four confirmation questions. We are:

  1. Seen as competent
  2. Succeeding at serving others’ interests as well as its own
  3. Using fair means to achieve our goals (in this case, giving our team members an opportunity to work on a brand positioning project)
  4. Taking responsibility for our impact on the community

Some of the incredible nonprofits we have had the chance to serve over the past year include Atlanta’s beloved Alliance Theatre, Waymark Foster, and Future Foundation. In every case, the organizations are trusted by their own stakeholders for their competency and commitment to improving the lives of youth in our community. 

The Alliance Theatre uses its position as a center of culture and arts in Atlanta to bring story-driven, kinesthetic learning to youth across the state and to bring those youth into the environment to experience the theatre. Studies are showing the positive and lasting intellectual and educational benefits of this kind of learning. The Alliance is at the forefront of the efforts in our state.

Future Foundation is a nonprofit organization working at the school level to break the cycle of poverty. Their innovative model connects organizations across the community to give high-risk youth access to education, experiences, relationships, and life skills they need to become capable, courageous adults. 

Waymark Foster gives hope, skills, and support to youth in foster care through camps, skills training, and mentoring. Their name reflects the Biblical words of Jeremiah about direction and progress. The organization provides youth in foster care with direction, resources, and a path forward.

In each case, these incredibly competent and generous organizations serve their stakeholders well. Their story needed to be honest with their abilities, means, and commitments. Our task was to help them extend their trust foundation with their internal team, donors, partners, and those they serve. We did that through highly collaborative branding sessions, creating engaging messaging and visual platforms, and producing impactful campaign strategies and elements.

We exist to help organizations articulate who they are and what they do to the people who matter most. Our BHAG is to be known, referred, and relied on as the highest quality source of brand content. Those are our promises and rallying cries (our watchwords). We’re trusted to live them out because we just do.

And when we do, clients and nonprofit partners have the brand messaging and creative tools they need to tell their stories and serve others better. In the case of these three nonprofits, in particular, it means they can make the future brighter, and we are humbled to be a part of their journey.

Watchword produces intelligence-driven branding and content that works efficiently across many channels to help businesses articulate who they are and what they do to the people who matter most. We listen carefully, communicate thoughtfully, respond consistently, and deliver absolutely – that is our rally cry – our watchword. What’s yours? We’d love to hear your story.

Rachelle Kuramoto

Author Rachelle Kuramoto

Rachelle is Watchword Brand principal. She has worked as a brand and content strategist, writer, and market intelligence director for 20 years. She is an experienced and award-winning professional who balances creative and business acumen to support projects, primarily in the B2B sector. Her objective in every engagement is to articulate what makes the client distinctive and sustainable in their market and with the stakeholders who matter most. She'd love to hear your story. Grab some time and a listening ear at

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