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The trust crisis and the sharing solution

In doing good things, we can rebuild trust, and turn conspiracy theorists into agents for positive change

It seems trust is being eroded in every walk of life.

The most evident and obvious area is politics, as proved by the latest episode of The Guardian’s excellent Anywhere But Westminster [1]video series, where John Harris came to the conclusion that “everyone is a conspiracy theorist now”.

This struck me as a great summary of the nation’s current feeling that we’re all in some way being lied to and the thought of people trying to get one- up on us is becoming a key component of our collective worldview.

 However, this increasing lack of trust is evident everywhere.

We all know Advertising is affected by lack of trust. Public favourability towards advertising hit a record low of 25% in December 2018 according to Credos, which has previously found trust in advertising is "in long-term decline", now almost half of what it was at its 48% peak in 1992[2].

It’s being reflected in the charity sector too. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) UK Giving 2019 report, published in May of this year, shows “trust in charities has decreased significantly since 2016 from 51% to 48% agreeing that they believe charities to be trustworthy.”[3]

So, what can we do about it? How do we rebuild trust? Action is the key.

One key observation of how individuals are reacting to these uncertain times is how they are finding ways to take action that supports their own worldview. If presented with the opportunity to put a stake in the ground and make a stand for a view they hold important to them, they will. This creates an opportunity for charities and brands to collaborate and help people credibly take action.

Earlier this year at the annual ISBA conference, the Advertising Association outlined five pillars to rebuild public trust in advertising, the fifth of which being “Gathering industry-wide support [for] advertising as a force for good”.[4] Working with charities is a great way of fast-tracking this.

Likewise, the charity sector, rocked by their own negative headlines, audience bombardment issues and challenges to existing routes to market, are looking for new ways to engage people with their vital missions. New value exchanges are being explored, alongside subscription models and a greater emphasis on upper-funnel engagement.

By working together, brands and charities can unlock new opportunities that benefit both sides. This means embracing shared media opportunities to maximise impact.

To be clear on the definition: when I say shared media activation, I mean the two brands working together to deliver mutually beneficial activity. This means going beyond a “traditional” charity partnership. 

This exciting, cut-through and difference-making activity will come from the bolder tie-ups – campaigns that flex every available touchpoint of the two businesses to maximise impact and engagement. 

Shared activity allows each side to talk to consumers in permissible and positive ways. Everyone has felt the brunt of GDPR shrinking their addressable audience, but a smart collaboration can be the best way to reach new audiences in new and interesting ways in a post-GDPR world.

These partnerships cannot be lazy alignments or simply just done for the sake of it – they come with an inherent tension that will hold people to account. The pothole of “woke-washing” must be avoided and both sides of the party should have a credible and clear reason to work together, to avoid reputational damage and maintain the quality and value of the allegiances.

Overall, shared media partnerships between brands and charities can be a way for organisations to collaborate, contribute to society and make the world a better place. Further proving that in doing good things, we can rebuild trust, and turn conspiracy theorists into agents for positive change.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/series/anywhere-but-westminster
[2] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/good-bad-troubling-trust-advertising-hits-record-low/1524250
[3] https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/publications/2019-publications/uk-giving-2019
[4] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/keith-weed-calls-system-change-rebuild-trust-uk-advertising/1524276


By Rik Moore Head of Insight, Strategy & Planning at The Kite Factory