The institutions of government, media, and business have seen a massive shift in trust from the general public in the past few years. Media and government especially suffered in 2017 and 2018. While the Edelman Trust Barometer, a comprehensive global survey of trust, indicates that trust numbers for businesses are slightly up in 2019, they still aren’t stellar. People are changing where they put their faith. How will that affect you, and what can you do about it? Here are 3 trends to keep in mind as you move forward in 2019.

1. It’s time to step up and fill the void.

While confidence in most institutions is at a critical low, trust in employers is at an unprecedented high. People have lost faith in government and the media to do what’s right, so they are turning to CEOs and leadership to steer them in the right direction. There is an outcry for change, and employees believe their leaders can be the agents of change. It is more important now than ever to clearly define a mission and maintain a dialogue with employees around that mission.

Showing you care and acting on their feedback contributes to how they’ll perceive your performance. The Edelman surveys show that perception of high performance and trust lead to much higher levels of loyalty and engagement within a company. As engaged employees have proven to have a positive effect on customer interactions, it’s no surprise that high trust organizations are out-performing their sectors by an average of 5%. Listen and lead. Your employees expect a lot of you, and now is the time to make a difference.

2. Documentaries are more popular than ever.

That’s right, docs are rockin’ it. Viewership and money in documentaries have skyrocketed, and it’s a trend worth noting. Why? Because it’s another potential symptom of the trust crisis. When government and mainstream media are no longer standards of truth, people look elsewhere for true north. Much like people choosing CEOs over politicians for change, so it seems that viewers are flooding to the documentary format for reliable news and information.

This means a couple of things for your business. If your advertising seems overproduced, off-message, or manipulative, it can drive customers away. As they ditch the flamboyant and flashy for the sincere and instructional, so too will they shy away from messaging that aligns itself with untrustworthy stylings of the media.

Branding may need a tweak as well in order to maintain trust. Documentaries famously depict humanity, champion causes, and provide transparency throughout a narrative. There are lessons to be learned here. Focus on your company culture and the people who make it great, employees and customers alike. Put it on display; success stories, testimonials, and published reviews are a great start. Demonstrate also a dedication to the community or a cause that is in line with your mission statement. Starting a conversation with your employees and customers about what’s important to your business and being open about the steps you’re taking is key to earning trust.

3. Positivity over politics.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. If you’re espousing some sort of cause or message, steer clear of politics unless it’s a social cause that is central to your brand mission. As divisive as politics have been in the last few years, taking a firm side one way or another has left the nation fatigued. Also, using ads and marketing that focus on negative aspects of competitors or the opportunity costs of not choosing your brand can scare off customers. It’s a stance that has politics written all over it, and this type of positioning has lost credibility with the constant bitterness portrayed in the media. People are starving for change, so give it to them.

Remain positive. Focus on what you do and why you do it well. Focus on your employees and why they make your company a great place to be. Cherish your customer relationships and show prospects the future you can build together. In a world filled with anger and resentment, be the friendly neighbor everyone is looking for.

When it comes to progressive and growing brands and their employees, culture is king. “Company culture” has quickly risen through the ranks of business buzzwords and with good reason. Unemployment is at a rare low, and in a job-seekers market, companies have to stand out more than ever. It takes a special kind of work environment to not only attract but retain top talent. A curated culture in the office can be the difference between a productive, cohesive team and expensive turnover and low morale. But what exactly makes a good company culture?

Executives and leaders are rushing to embrace the idea of culture in the workplace, but they don’t always understand what it means or how to create it. Not surprisingly, asking employees themselves can shed some much-needed light on how to spruce up the synergy in a business. At Listen360, we’ve been working with employee feedback for over 10 years with companies like Orangetheory Fitness and Sport Clips. Our findings boil down to 3 main areas that make a company culture exceptional.


  1. Mission

Most companies have some sort of mission statement, and odds are, yours does too. How many employees can recite it? How many of them can relate to it? Your goals, message, and tenets should not only convey your intentions towards your customers but should include the type of relationships and aspirations you hope to achieve within the company.

Employees don’t want to hear where you want them to take you, they want to know where you’re all going together. Establishing a mission statement that encompasses the advancement of the company, the individual, and the brand family–which includes customers–is important to morale and a sense of purpose.


  1. Merit

Your employees work hard, and recognition will go a long way. Naturally, when asked what would make them happier at work, employee polls listed compensation, but a lot of intangible and idealistic things showed up as well. Sharing positive feedback from customers–especially about specific employees–will boost morale and even improve interactions with customers. Many successful brands use some variation of a “scoreboard,” and share wins throughout the company to promote the accomplishments of various teams.

Respect and recognition from superiors polled very high among employees asked about improvements in the workspace, so keep this in mind when deciding how to best recognize them. Sometimes, merit and worth come from feeling heard and feeling like a contributor. Practicing better listening skills, asking for ideas from all parts of the company, and actively collecting feedback about the work environment all show that you care and value your employees.


  1. Means

Right up there with respect and value is a sense of purpose. Engaged, loyal employees feel like they can build a career and a life within your company. Each individual has interests, talents, and aspirations, and it’s important to learn and support these. Providing the resources necessary for employees to not only succeed in daily tasks but to fulfill personal development can be the difference between a 10-year tenure and someone looking for the next best gig.

Developmental workshops, special projects, and open brainstorming meetings can shake out exactly what your employees want to do and what it will take to get them there. Maybe one team member has a penchant for videography or graphic design. See if you can work that skill into a marketing campaign or some sort of internal application. Room to grow and plenty of support will have a drastic effect on the company as a whole.

Sunday’s showdown between the Patriots and Rams turned out to be some of the least compelling television in recent memory. The 13-3 snore-fest that played out on the gridiron didn’t give CBS much to work with, to be fair. There was one brilliant moment, though, that captured my complete and undivided attention. During a pregame ad, in the midst of some amusing back and forth with Peyton Manning, John Malkovich suddenly bellowed a powerful lesson in storytelling. CBS essentially made a captivating piece of content by, well, telling us how to make captivating content.

The promo begins with cinematic slow-motion shots, costumed warriors, suspenseful symphonic music, and a classic “movie preview” narrator voice. Manning is pitching this dramatic Super Bowl promo to a conference room full of CBS Sports executives. They’re confused. Why would they consult with retired quarterback Peyton Manning if they wanted some metaphor about gladiators? Manning doesn’t seem to pick up what they’re putting down. But wait, he has rented out the entire Roman Colosseum and sent actor John Malkovich there for the commercial shoot. The absurdity builds.

Malkovich hops on a video call from Rome and tears Manning’s idea apart. The idea of gladiators quickly seems hackneyed and laughable. The put down gets some laughs, but Malkovich makes a point about the Super Bowl that any brand or marketer should take to heart. “The only story you need, Peyton, will be right in front of your eyes!” he shouts as if it couldn’t be more obvious. Malkovich becomes the voice of reason that many Mannings of the marketing world fail to hear when trying to convey their message to customers.
John Malkovich speaks with CBS execs via video.
The key is knowing what you offer and why people should want to choose it. That sounds overly simplified, but it’s just that basic. In this scenario, CBS has the two best teams in the country competing for the biggest title in football on a grand stage. Why would they say anything else? 

You know your product or service, and you know your mission. Don’t stray from that identity. Gather customer feedback diligently to make sure you know exactly what your customers want. Brands often make the mistake of adding more bells and whistles to their websites, marketing material, and sales tactics. Clarifying your message and stripping away the excess is an important exercise when experiencing growth and broadening your audience.

Every part of your story should clearly communicate what you offer and how it will better the customer’s story. As Malkovich so aptly puts it in the promo: “Everything else is noise!” When you’re competing for customers’ attention over the roar of today’s crowded markets, you can’t afford any extra noise.

Watch the Super Bowl LIII Opener here.