Published in Forbes and Italian weekly L’Economia de Il Corriere della Sera, the debut Italian edition of .trust examined 81 state- and family-owned companies and privately held food, fashion and luxury brands.
Each company’s ability to generate trust in stakeholders and to support the business through communications was assessed by examining their website, corporate social media channels and related Wikipedia article.
The evaluation measured them on two fundamental aspects: Substance (the key information needed to answer users’ questions about the business) and Distinctiveness (how users are engaged in digital channels).
The results of the first edition of our research are encouraging. They show us that many companies are investing in digital communication to support their competitiveness.
Trust and Transparency
Credibility starts with substance: in light of the heightened expectations stakeholders place on companies, fast facts and key numbers have become must-haves whether companies are listed or not.
Too many non-listed companies have difficulty publishing information about themselves, especially in terms of sustainability and careers: 41% of the sample didn’t provide enough Substance to qualify for the rest of the evaluation. State-owned, industrial and financial companies tended to do much better than fashion brands.
Strengths and weaknesses
The Role of Leadership in Creating Trust
Presenting the people leading a business is key in building credibility and protecting reputation. The business strategy that they are responsible for should also guide the approach to communications.
Given they are not under the same spotlight as their listed counterparts in terms of convincing the financial markets, non-listed companies tend not to showcase their management or be transparent about their business strategy. They perform better on topics like innovation and investments.
Strengths and weaknesses
Trust in Stories
Stories, articles, projects, videos and blogs: there are many different types of content at hand to take communications beyond dry disclosure. The possibilities and opportunities for engagement are numerous, but in order to do so, storytelling must work for the business.
Many companies are investing in narrative content: just over half of the companies analysed in the Distinctiveness pillar describe case studies, projects and initiatives while about one in four publish stories, viewpoints and articles on a range of topics.
What topics are most commonly used in stories and articles?
About a quarter of our Italian non-listed sample find themselves in this quadrant, most commonly B2B and industrial companies. A couple made it into the top 10 but none of them got a very high score for content and transparency (i.e. over 70% on Substance). While the company presentation is often well articulated, information regarding sustainability and careers need improvement.
There are few companies that make it into this quadrant, notably the top 8 companies in the ranking. They excel when it comes to Substance, and perform above average in Distinctiveness. However, the challenge these companies face now is to boost their positioning by finding engaging ways to present their stories and project a strategic vision.
This is the most populated category in our research: the companies that fall in this category are those that do not provide the enough of the basic content stakeholders expect to see.
There are relatively few companies that fall into this category, mostly due to a lack of digital culture among non-listed companies. There are a few cases of good storytelling but with little attention to more traditional corporate content.