Where's the Trust?

April 7, 2015

Marketers growing frustrated by their in-house reputations, survey reveals

By Christopher Hosford

Among the most critical challenges B-to-B marketers and communicators contend with today, building trust, rationalizing the impact of campaigns, creating engagement, and establishing their leadership credentials figure most prominently, according to a new survey spearheaded by BMA-Colorado. In fact, a majority of survey respondents feel they're facing a crisis in confidence from the C-suite around measurement, and that they have a long way to go to solve it.

"Marketers are frustrated by how results are determined," says Anne M. McCarthy, founder and president of the Denver-based agency Westmeath Global Communications, which commissioned the Rocky Mountain Performance Barometer study together with the BMA, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the Public Relations Society of America. "Marketers told us that, yes, the C-suite wants ROI metrics, but there are many formulas for what is 'good.' The question is, what measurements should we be bringing to the C-suite?"

The online survey of 223 Colorado-based marketing and communications professionals revealed that 89 percent strongly agree that building and retaining trust with stakeholders is a pivotal task for the profession. Further, respondents are concerned about their internal standing: 61 percent said the only way they can strengthen their in-house reputations is by measuring ROI and campaign impact.

"The fact is, trust is at an all-time low across all organizations," McCarthy says. "The marketing practitioners are aware of it, and that in itself is a good thing. When stakeholders think something smells, it reduces credibility substantially."

Social and Its Discontents

Rich Kylberg, vice president of corporate communications and global marketing at Denver-based Arrow Electronics, a BMA member, believes that the speed of communications today, and the vulnerability that companies face from social media comments, are making marketers particularly concerned about trust and reputation.

"The best answer that anyone's come up with on this is to continue to operate daily, minute by minute, and consistently with genuine authenticity and integrity," Kylberg says. "When that lapses for just a second, it becomes like a corrosive piece of rust."

Despite executives' obsessions over ROI, Kylberg says both marketers and top leaders need to recognize that "marketing is equal parts art and science."

"At some point in every campaign everything that's done requires a leap of faith," he points out. "You might reduce this to a smaller step of faith, but if you've been doing this for a while you'll know that telling the truth, inspiring people, and telling great stories have tremendous impacts of their own."

Kylberg agrees that if top management is focused on ROI, then marketers must as well. But, he adds, in doing so they should take a leadership role in providing other meaningful metrics.

In fact, the topic of leadership figured prominently in the BMA-Colorado survey: 70 percent of respondents said "the missing link" among marketers and communications professionals is strategic thinking. The general assessment is that the lack of leadership is creating a "significant gap between business strategy and execution."

"Really great marketers should lead the growth strategy of their companies," says Jennifer Nealson, chief marketing officer at the Denver Center for The Performing Arts, a BMA member, which conducts robust B-to-B marketing outreach among area companies for partnerships and sponsorships. "Marketers must be well-versed in long-range goals and the measurements of how to get there. Some marketers get that and some don't. The name of the game today is being accountable for growth."

Seeking Engagement

Among other significant findings from the survey, 42 percent of respondents said the explosion of data is the top challenge for them this year, and 47 percent said stakeholder engagement is a hot topic, though they feel challenged to create enduring relationships in the digital age.

"With digital, it's a matter of how we make that connection. To me, the common ground is content," McCarthy says. "Depending on the people you're trying to reach, this involves social, broadcast, print, paid, and earned. It's all about how you blend it together."

For her content campaigns, Nealson has hired a nationally known arts journalist to produce stories that she says "go a long way to create trust and engagement."

"It's about cutting through all the chatter, and to be a trusted source of information," Nealson adds. "Engagement is about becoming people's personal brand. It's challenging, and we're still working on it. But the bottom line is, it all comes down to authenticity."

Click here for more information on the survey.


"Where's the Trust?" Christopher Hosford. BMA Buzz. 4/7/15.