Proof launches consultancy to help businesses build trust

Trustlab builds on the PR firm's existing expertise to help corporations find actionable ways to address steady declines in recent years.

PR and communications firm Proof has launched Trustlab, a new research and consultancy firm to help leaders and organizations measure, understand and develop trust among consumers.

Building on the firm’s communications expertise and related research through projects like the CanTrust Index, Trustlab will provide integrated solutions that translate academic contributions and research into actions that motivate executives and brands to build and sustain trust.

“We aim to make a contribution to organizations who want to deliberately build trust, but aren’t sure how,” says Bruce MacLellan, CEO at Proof, who adds that the firm’s past work in collecting data on trust revealed the opportunity to combine its own knowledge with those in the academic world, and translate them into clear, proactive actions.

“Trust really touches on all aspects of what people do in the marketing world, from building strong connections with consumers, to building brands that connect with consumers…as well as organizations and their corporate success,” he says. “Trust drives all of these factors for agency work.”

“If brands can partner with us to build, measure and understand trust, it really will give them a considerable material competitive advantage – certainly in the market we’re in today, where trust happens to be a part of our collective consciousness in a way that I’ve never seen before,” says Kathleen McGinn, who has joined Proof to be the director at Trustlab.

MacLellan notes that there has been a steady decline in trust in corporations and their leaders. From January 2018 to January 2020, Canadians’ trust in CEOs fell from 55% to 38%, according to CanTrust Index data – since then, that has fallen further to 30%. Employees also gave their employer a “C” grade for their efforts to build trust internally. The further employees are from the C-suite, the lower they grade their employer.

“We’ve seen this need coming. There’s an acknowledgment of this need. But people either aren’t taking it seriously, or don’t know where to start,” MacLellan says. “We think there’s an opportunity to better educate and support organizations that want to build trust and have a deliberate plan of measuring, tracking and building it.”

MacLellan says there are “quite a few reasons” as to why there’s been an overall decline in trust, such as the rise of new technologies that have raised doubts about security, economic disruption and impact on global trade and economic insecurity.

“Corporations, as they have been adjusting to global trade and new economic operations, have, in some ways, undermined the trust of individuals,” he says. “There has also been, perhaps, a greater focus on short term performance in many large corporations. Short term thinking is possibly what’s needed for the quarterly earnings’ results, but it’s not usually very good for building trust over the long term.”