Back to list

Earning trust through our external communications

Wednesday 14, Nov 2018

Every organisation strives to earn the trust of their customers, clients or members. But building or strengthening trust is easier said than done. You can’t convince customers to trust you by simply saying your organisation is “trusted”. 

Communications professionals know that trust is earned through actions that match your words, or doing what you say you will do. But trust is just as easily lost. To quote American businessman, investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

So if trust comes through actions, not words, what role can communications professionals play in building trust through our communications activities?

Here are five ways that CUA is striving to build trust through our communications.

1. Proactive story-telling from the perspective of our members.

Earlier this year, CUA commissioned research on who CUA members and non-members felt were the most credible trusted voices to speak about CUA. The overwhelming response was that CUA members were considered our most trusted voice by 39% of respondents and an even higher 69% of the 300+ CUA members surveyed. We’ve started telling these stories through videos, with CUA members Neville, Dianne and Tom and CUA team member Virend: www.cua.com.au/2018

2. Education to help our members and the wider community to improve financial wellbeing.

This is a key part of CUA’s Vision and is something we are working on through things like advice and tips on financial topics on social media, and developing stories about how our investment in community initiatives is making a difference.

3. Honesty and transparency when things go wrong or changes will have a negative impact on some members.

We are working hard to identify how we can get better at communicating changes to members earlier and how we get better at explaining the “why” and rationale for the change. We know things will inevitably go wrong and that change impacts members in different ways, but we are conscious that how we communicate is something we can continually improve to ensure members are supported and informed throughout the process.

4. Be authentic and genuine.

Consumers can see through public relations “spin” so its important we develop communications and messages that are clear, honest and relevant to the audience. The best explanation of “why” is usually the truth!

5. Establish the organisation as a reliable and quotable source for media.

In communications, we know that nobody makes friends in the media during a crisis. The media are an important channel for CUA to tell our story and raise awareness with members and wider stakeholder audiences of our strategic initiatives and achievements. It’s important for us to regularly connect with our established media contacts to strengthen relationships, and reach out to new media contacts. This helps ensure CUA has a voice in the media on the matters that impact the mutual sector, our members or the financial wellbeing of the wider community.


Written by Laurel-Lee Blain - Senior Manager, External Communications for Australia’s largest and oldest credit union, CUA.

This is an extract from a presentation to the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s national conference this week.
You can follow Laurel-Lee on Twitter @LL_Blain or follow CUA @CUA_Connect