Trust will be the watchword for ’24

This year, securing trust and retaining their own reputation will be more important than ever for business and dare I say it, politicians.

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, half the UK population trusts business, up 1% on the previous year, while only 37% trust the government, a fall of 5%. Worryingly, it also suggests that as a society, 65% of respondents think we’re becoming more divided than ever, and that impacts the trust we place in institution.

When it comes to gaining trust this year, there’s the small matter of the General Election. Technically it might not happen until January 2025, but the big money is on May or October. So, how can business leaders make sure their voices are heard?

While it might be hard for the average business to get the ear of Ministers, unless they are global businesses or major party donors, there are still ways of influencing the policy platforms on which a party might stand.

Membership of your local Chamber of Commerce, IoD or Federation of Small Businesses is one route. Nationally, each of these trusted organisations will be coordinating the views of its members to present to Ministers and special advisers.

There’s also the incumbent MP, who will already be known to many local business leaders, and in some instances, offer a channel to party HQ.

If you don’t know your constituency MP, then why not knock on their door and invite them to see for themselves what you’re doing, and your contribution to the local community and economy.

Many will be looking for photo opportunities, each with an implied endorsement of their campaign, but tread carefully. While the business owner may support a particular political party, being photographed publicly with them during an election campaign may alienate some of their customers, staff and other stakeholders.

Given the national opinion polls suggest a change of government and a Labour majority, it’s important not to ignore prospective parliamentary candidates. As a public affairs agency, we advise many businesses, especially those in marginal constituencies, to quietly engage with the possible next MP. It’s not a snub to the incumbent, it’s simply being pragmatic and prepared for any change.

When it comes to retaining your own reputation – and trust in your business – you need to make sure you are prepared for whatever 2024 is going to throw at you.

On the positive, it could be growth, investment and senior appointments. Each could be worthy of announcement to your local and trade media, to stakeholders, or via your website and social channels. Share your good news!

However, with many predicting a challenging year ahead, there’s the need to prepare for the negative. Forward-thinking of the potential pitfalls and each scenario from a communication perspective is imperative.

 Having a crisis communication plan in place, one that’s practised and up to date, with senior management and all staff understanding their role in a crisis, is priceless when it comes to maintaining trust in a business.

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