5 tips for developing interpersonal trust in your marketing department

Developing trust within your organization is at least as important as developing it between customers and your brand.


As you’re well aware, developing trust between customers and your brand is supremely important. But if you’ve tried to develop trust for years to no avail, then you need to be vulnerable enough to recognize that there’s an issue festering deep below the surface. In all likelihood, there’s no trust inside your organization.

Trust is cultivated within

In order to properly understand employee engagement and how certain behaviors influence emotional responses, it’s necessary to study the human brain. This is something Naomi Eisenberger of UCLA has researched heavily, and thanks to her work, we have a better idea of the ways in which trust can be cultivated.

Eisenberger and other researchers have been able to really zero in on the idea that the brain’s pain network is activated when we feel things like physical pain (a lack of safety), betrayal (unfair treatment), and social negativity (not belonging). But the brain’s reward network is also in play. This network becomes activated when we experience cooperation (belonging), physical pleasure (safety), and being treated fairly (trust).

In the context of this article, the latter point is especially important. If you want to cultivate trust in your marketing department, then employees need to be treated fairly so that the brain’s reward network is activated.

But before we move any further, it’s necessary to define trust. ChangingMinds.org has one of the best definitions. They split it up into two categories: emotional and logical.

  • “Emotionally, it is where you expose your vulnerabilities to people, but believing they will not take advantage of your openness.”

  • “Logically, it is where you have assessed the probabilities of gain and loss, calculating expected utility based on hard performance data, and concluded that the person in question will behave in a predictable manner.”

“In practice, trust is a bit of both,” they explain. It’s also true that some people tend to be more emotional, while others are more logical. Developing strong interpersonal trust in your marketing department requires you to treat people fairly in a way that respects both the emotional and logical components of trust.

Five tips for increasing trust

At some point, you have to stop theorizing about trust and actually take action. So, we’re going to provide you with a list of things you can do to increase trust in your own organization. Give these a try:

  1. Schedule team-bonding activities

Team-bonding activities may be cheesy, but they exist for a reason. They tend to accelerate trust between individuals much faster than anything else. They require people to work together under a set of foreign circumstances. Looking for ideas? Consider the following:

  • White water rafting. “Few other adventure activities teach teamwork and togetherness like rafting,” says Expedia. “When you’re hurtling down a series of rapids, you depend upon your guide and your fellow rafters.” Take a day and go rafting. You’ll learn a lot about your team and will return feeling like you can depend on each other.

  • Volunteering. There’s something about volunteering that brings out the best in everyone. Volunteering requires us to be selfless — and others recognize that selflessness as a positive characteristic. Get a group together and conduct a food drive, serve at a homeless shelter, or build a house for Habitat for Humanity. Any sort of volunteer work can be good.

  • Go rock climbing. Only have a couple of hours? Go indoor rock climbing with your team. The wonderful thing about rock climbing is that’s incredibly safe, yet challenging. When you’re the one scaling the face of a rock, it feels dangerous and difficult. But those on the ground are able to clearly see your path to the top and can provide instructions and encouragement. That’s where trust is born.

This is just a small sample of some of the things you can do. The point is to get your team out of its comfort zone on a regular basis and do things that force them to rally around a specific goal.

  1. Encourage a culture of openness

One big thing is a culture of openness. And while we often think of openness in figurative terms, there are actually extremely practical ways this can play out.

Vodori, a marketing platform vendor, believes that having an open layout — i.e. doing away with private offices and cubicles — is one way to bring people together. They even feature glass walls in meeting rooms so that everyone can see what’s going on.

“That means most of the traditional barriers (both literal and figurative) to collaboration and open dialogue don’t exist in our environment,” employee Kelly Farr says. “What does this lead to? Well, lots of knowledge about your coworkers’ eating habits, but more importantly, spontaneous conversation and even the chance to help out if you overhear a technical conundrum you’ve solved before.”

  1. Hang out with employees outside of work

If you’re only spending time with your employees inside of work, then you really only know one side of them. Think about how different you are in the context of work and in your own personal life. Your employees are the same way. If you want to know what makes them tick, then hanging out together after work is your best chance for breaking through.

Ideas include going out for drinks after work, playing on a rec league sports team together, training for a race, getting families together for a cookout, and other similar things. Remember that this is a process. It’ll take time to get comfortable with employees. Start with something very casual — such as having a beer at the local bar — and use little “wins” to build trust.

  1. Live up to your mission statement

Your company has a mission statement, right? Your marketing department may even have its own additional mission statement or list of goals. The question is, are you living up to your mission?

If your mission statement and core values say one thing and you actually do another, your employees won’t feel a strong bond of trust. Instead, they’ll notice the hypocrisy and wonder what else is going on under the surface.

  1. Back your employees

The final tip is to back your employees when they’re accused of something, berated by a customer, or wrongly treated by someone else. Coming to the aid of your employees, even when they may be in the wrong, shows that you care for them.

Entrepreneur David Hassell puts it this way, “When people are treated as assets, they won’t be able to contribute in a way that leads to growth and success. When your employees feel valued as people — instead of cogs — there is no limit to what they can accomplish.”

Make trust a singular focus

Remember that trust is both an emotional and logical act. Avoid focusing too much on one aspect of trust and instead take a balanced approach that prioritizes the greater good.

It’s unwise to merely assume that your employees feel a sense of trust in your business (and in each other). If you really want to cultivate trust, it needs to become a singular focus. This is the only way to truly maximize your marketing efforts and create a lasting brand that’s healthy and selfless.

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