Trust is a powerful force that spurs loyalty, builds credibility and supports effective communication. It gives an organisation the benefit of the doubt in situations where being heard, understood and believed is critical to successful outcomes.
But how do we go beyond simply engaging stakeholders into building trust? It’s about taking your stakeholders on the entire journey, working to understand them and connecting and communicating with them in a genuine and open way.
Begin with community involvement
Involving your stakeholders and communicating proactively with them from the beginning builds a foundation of mutual respect that is critical to building trust.
The community should hear project news that involves them from you, before they hear it from anyone else.
So involve them as early as possible – not just when regulatory requirements require it or when public or media attention prompts you to.
Understand stakeholder values
Research the stakeholders with whom you are communicating. What do they care about, how will your project impact them and what might demonstrate that your organisation understands and cares about their community values?
If you can answer these questions and forge a connection, or even better a shared purpose between your organisation and the community, then you will have gone a long way in securing their trust.
Whether it’s a long history of operating in the community, local talent engaged on the project or long term community benefits – think about what the project can give to the community and how you can communicate it.
Give your stakeholders a voice
Provide two-way communication channels to ensure your stakeholders feel they can communicate with you, and that you are genuinely listening.
Face to face consultations, dedicated project phone hotlines, social media accounts and emails give stakeholders a chance to ask questions, discuss concerns and voice their opinions.
Show how you have listened
If possible, incorporate community suggestions, concerns and ideas into the project. Even offering something small can really instil trust and respect.
Regardless of whether is viable to implement community suggestions, simply acknowledging their position can really make a difference. Don’t try and silence, cover up or ignore opposing opinions – especially on social media forums or open engagement forums.