One truth to rule them all.


The recent Oxfam scandal is the latest example of an institution betraying the trust of the people it serves, and the strength of the backlash when things go wrong. 

That it landed just weeks after the latest edition of Edelman’s Trust Barometer was a timely proof point for one of the primary findings; dishonest, unethical behaviour is eroding our trust in institutions at a global scale, with public scrutiny of what organisations say vs what they do on the up.  

But respondents still say they trust their employer to do what is right, and more generally, organisations and their CEO’s are looked upon to improve economic and social conditions. There is a real opportunity for organisations to become a focal point for change where traditional institutions are failing. Because of that, the expectations for social responsibility have never been higher. This brings opportunity and threat.

So what does this mean for organisations?

In a world of multi-channel, multi-discipline and integrated communications, developing and sustaining a consistent organisational narrative or identity is a challenge. This is important as consistency and dependability are two of the key foundations of any trust-based relationship.

To think about this in more human terms, a consistent story is one of the first things any good detective will test when they’re searching for truth. So, if a brand claims to be a digital innovator to potential candidates, yet offers a sub-par application and onboarding process, they will erode trust. If a HR team talks about being a fair and equal employer, but it’s senior leadership team are 70% male and 90% white, then it fails to address the truth. This disconnect between reality and the narratives we create damages our ability to rebuild or gain trust.

How do you deliver a credible, authentic and consistent story?

For us, the consistency required to build trust can only come from a One-Story approach to developing our organisational identity. This might sound simple, but creating a central editorial team to create the content that supports this identity can involve breaking down traditional communications hierarchies and siloes. In our experience, creating a One-Story approach to content development involves:   

  1. Creating content as one central team (HR, Internal Comms, Corporate Affairs and Marketing) and adapting that for your different audiences.
  2. Considering the experience of everyone who engages with your brand and getting their perspective and buy in to the story you want to tell
  3. Curating and publishing stories and factual content in favour of taglines and crafted marketing.
  4. Embracing transparency and encouraging conversation and engagement between your different audiences, internal and external.
  5. Knowing the difference between reality and aspiration. So if you aspire to be a digital leader but are still operating on Windows 8, you might want to build your brand story about the challenge and the journey instead.

And the benefits?

A One-Story approach simplifies the process of delivering of a consistent organisational identity. Perhaps more importantly, it’s an opportunity to bring audiences together on one platform, enabling cross-over engagement with content that can turn customers into candidates and employees and customers into advocates.

John StorerComment