Five Laws of Trust for Communicators

As a communications or public relations professional, you’ll work with a plethora of other professionals: stakeholders, subject matter experts, journalists, bloggers, employees at every level of an organization and other communications colleagues.

Key to ensuring your work is solid is to form a good working relationship, one that establishes trust and credibility. This is, I realize, easier said than done. Still, by committing to these five basic essentials throughout your career, you’ll  find that others will begin to build confidence in you.

1. Say what you’ll do, and do what you say. This is particularly important in working with others who do not know you or your work. If you say you’ll deliver a story or a PR plan, or return a phone call, do it – and do it when you say you’ll do it. Understanding that in today’s world, communications doesn’t stop just because you got slammed with five other tasks will make you empathetic to others’ needs. Be credible!

2.  Tactfulness still goes a long way. When working on any particular project, remember that you’ll likely encounter multiple viewpoints. How you communicate details, particularly when referring to issues or delicate matters, can be a very important component. So, be sure you say these things as tactfully as possible. (Note: There is a time for laying it out there, but this wouldn’t be considered normal practice!)

3.  Know when to ditch your desk. I know, I know. Your life blood is tied to your laptop, which sits neatly on your desk. Remember, it’s a laptop, which means it – and you – can travel. Learn to discern when that’s necessary. Do you need five minutes of face time vs. a phone call or email? Or, do you need to catch a flight to that satellite office and spend a day with stakeholders in another city? I’ve tromped through airplane maintenance hangars and along railroad tracks to ensure I “get it” and that stakeholders I’m working with know that I am interested in and value their efforts. Rolling up your sleeves and seeing what others deal with on a daily basis will always give you insight. In the end, this results in clearer communications, which helps engender confidence in you and your work.

4.  Share your expertise. Being current on your company means you must be current on your company’s industry. Scanning the environment and recognizing industry trends not only helps you do your job better but also puts you in a position to provide story ideas to colleagues or meaty content to journos and bloggers. Being helpful to others, especially when that help is not requested, will carve a special place for you in the landscape. And add to your trust quotient.

5. Be a careful listener. People love to share their stories. If you’re in communications, you probably thrive on hearing those stories and putting them to good use. Getting someone’s story or request wrong — or worse, not hearing the request – is a sure-fire way to erode credibility. Be sure you listen well to others and respond appropriately.

These are among my top five must-dos but by no means all the things a communicator can do to build confidence. What habits have you formed to ensure your own trustworthiness?  And what do you see as the most important thing you can do, or have done, to build trust?

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