Building Internal Trust in Marketing

Let’s cut to the chase: If brands and marketers can’t build trust internally at their organizations, they’ll never be able to develop it outwardly in an authentic way. Plain and simple.

When marketers broadcast trustworthiness as a virtue through content and messaging, while their company visibly deals with discord and misalignment in its own ranks, the sentiment rings about as hollow as a sinister-looking Disney villain telling the protagonist through a wicked grin that of course they can be trusted. (Except that today’s customers are more savvy and adept than those necessarily naive fictional film heroes.)


Employees need to trust their leaders, and vice versa. Various functions and departments must foster trust between one another. When a sturdy foundation of confidence, reliability, and belief is in place, this will naturally emanate externally. But the opposite is also true, and it’s something all brands should be thinking about as trust-building becomes a primary differentiator in the business world.

Building Trust Within Your Organization

When a genuine culture of trust is established inside your organization, the benefits are innumerable: It fosters better collaboration, encourages transparency, and enables problem-solving. Perhaps most crucially, it also greatly affects the way your organization is perceived. 

Let’s explore this dynamic through a few different lenses.

Trust Between Marketing Leadership and the C-Suite

Per the latest numbers, the average CMO tenure checks in about 43 months — less than half that of a CEO. Lee Odden has described this as “a crisis in confidence amongst business leadership when it comes to marketing.” At the same time, marketing’s impact on business results is undeniable.

Marketing done well with a clear why, measurement and purpose creates the kind of value that both customers and business leaders will trust, ensuring credibility and investment far into the future. @leeodden #TrustInMarketing Click To Tweet

Clearly, there is widespread opportunity to strengthen relationships and solidify trust between marketing leadership and the C-suite. Openness, increased collaboration, and bottom-line proof are among the keys to achieving this. Lee shared insights and advice from a wide range of CMOs and marketing influencers on strengthening trust in marketing

A few of my favorites:

“The best way I’ve found to get people onboard with your way of thinking is to do some marketing of your marketing. In other words, treat every relationship as if they were a customer.” — Margaret Magnarelli 

“Honesty. I know it sounds trite but trust is earned and earned through honesty. As marketers and storytellers we often ‘spin’ things to suit our needs. I think more honesty about the company you represent is the only way to succeed. People relate to flaws. It’s human.” — Julie Roehm 

“In today’s world it’s all about the quality of A.I.R. you create; Authentic, Inspirational and Realistic marketing will win over your internal and external customers.” — Jeanniey Mullen 

Trust Within the Marketing Team

This is ground zero. Marketers are responsible for managing a brand’s outward image; when conflict and challenges plague the internal team, it’ll be tough to convey the notion of a unified front that’s all rowing in the same direction.

When our Vice President of Client Accounts Alexis Hall blogged here recently about making the transition from marketing doer to marketing leader, she noted that cultivating trust on her team was top-of-mind. “Fostering a happy, well-functioning team is your top priority,” Alexis writes. “Not only can you not do your job without them, but it is one of the best indicators of success to your boss and your boss’s boss.”

Among her recommendations are shifting the way we find personal value in our work (it’s not just about what you accomplish, but what you help others accomplish), clearing obstacles, and developing leadership qualities within those who show the potential to move up. 

Fostering a happy, well-functioning team is your top priority. Not only can you not do your job without them, but it is one of the best indicators of success to your boss and your boss’s boss. @Alexis5484 #TrustInMarketing Click To Tweet

Trust Across Departments and Functions

Building trust within the marketing department can be challenging enough on its own. Even if these individuals work together regularly, use the same lingo, and generally understand the specific roles for each player, global organizations need to coordinate between different regions and business units. Corporate marketing often pushes generic messaging in uniform fashion, overlooking the need for localization and contextual nuance. 

Apply this dynamic across departmental or functional divides, and matters can become all the more tricky.

We all know about the infamous barriers between marketing and sales. But it’s also important to establish strong relationships between marketing and customer success, product development, human resources, and beyond. 

The soundness of cross-functional relationships in your organization manifests in many ways: efficiency of production, consistency of external messaging, the way colleagues interact with one another while in meetings or on calls with clients, and so on. 

How to improve the connectivity of siloed units? There are a few key opportunities:

  • Transparency: Make it easy for folks in one department to see what’s going on in another. 
  • Honesty/Candor: Encourage people to speak up if they’re bothered of confused by what’s going on elsewhere in the company.
  • Eliminate Isolation: Cross-functional meetings, or team outings that bring together individuals who don’t generally collaborate, can be really helpful.

Trust Between Employee and Employer

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer hints at the existence of a new employer-employee contract: 

Employees are ready and willing to trust their employers, but the trust must be earned through more than “business as usual.” Employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent).

The rewards of meeting these expectations and building trust are great. Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf—they will advocate for the organization (a 39-point trust advantage), are more engaged (33 points), and remain far more loyal (38 points) and committed (31 points) than their more skeptical counterparts.

Those items in the second paragraph make clear the tangible benefits of emphasizing trust between employees and your company’s top leadership, and the first paragraph offers useful guidance on how to get there. In particular, executives can connect more meaningfully with their employees by rallying them around a higher purpose and taking a stand on things that matter to the team. 

Building Trust, Inside and Out

There’s a reason we cover the topic of trust in marketing so frequently, and from so many different angles, on this blog: It’s complex and multifaceted. One missing ingredient — especially at a fundamental level — can lead to dysfunctional operations, lower output quality, and attrition of employees and customers alike.

When trust is built from the inside out, happy CEOs, marketing teams, and employees beget happy customers and engaged prospects. This is an area where marketing can and should take ownership and lead the charge.

When trust is built from the inside out, happy CEOs, marketing teams, and employees beget happy customers and engaged prospects. – @NickNelsonMN #TrustInMarketing Click To Tweet

Learn more about TopRank Marketing’s views on trust in marketing by checking out past entries in our Trust Factors series:

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