When Ben Boyd, president of practices and sectors for Edelman, took the stage at C2 in Montréal on Thursday, May 25, he was focused on the central issue that is challenging the established institutions of the world: trust. “We are in an age of distrust,” Boyd told the audience, “because we’re in a crisis of leadership.”
During his appearance, Boyd highlighted the results of Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer, which revealed the largest-ever drop in trust across government, business, media, and NGOs. “This decline in trust is not a phase,” Boyd said. “It’s not a fad. It’s a fact.”
If people don’t trust messages from CEOs of big brands and leaders of democracies, how can other organizations create their own sense of credibility? Boyd offered the audience a new marketing equation to guide their approaches for customer engagement: A + B + D — an acronym that translates to “Advocate + Buy + Defend.” The formula is based on the fact that peer reviews play a crucial role in informing the public. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, an average person is as equally a credible source of information as a technical expert or academic, and that same average person is more credible than a CEO or a government official. “Real people,” Boyd said, “trump important people.”
Boyd wasn’t just citing statistics, though. He offered a glimpse into his own personal product comparisons, which involve reading loads of reviews from other users he has never met. Of course, he isn’t alone in this process. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon — we all rely on people we don’t know in the digital landscape to point us toward the products and services we consume. Similarly, at conferences and events, attendees post their thoughts across social-media channels on how they feel about their experiences.
Businesses must find ways to inspire consumers to open their wallets, but the most successful organizations nurture those relationships until those consumers inspire other people — friends and non-acquaintances reading reviews — to open their wallets, too. That’s the A and the B of Boyd’s equation. But the D may be the most powerful piece. “These advocates know you’re going to screw up,” Boyd said. “We all do. But they will defend you.”
For event organizers, that line of defense is crucial. What if the shuttle buses can’t accommodate attendees? What if the food is terrible? What if the AV technology encounters a massive glitch in the opening general session? Attendees may complain, but if you’ve embraced Boyd’s equation, they’ll be able to find in their hearts the most important ingredient of any lasting relationship: forgiveness.
Stay tuned for more insights from C2, and look out for an in-depth look at the conference in the August issue of Convene.