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Social Media: Valuable Lessons For Business On Building Trust

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 12:50 PM

Social media and the sharing economy are two areas that organisations must embrace and learn from if they are to establish and maintain trust with their people, their customers and society.

Ian Powell, PwC’s Chairman and Senior Partner, speaking to an audience of over 300 business leaders, regulators, senior civil servants and professional bodies at the 2015 Building Public Trust Awards last night in London, made it clear that businesses ignore social media at their peril.

“From our discussions with businesses, students and the wider public on the issue of trust, all voice a positive desire to trust and be trusted and see common ground on what underpins trust – the recurring themes being transparency and honesty. The desire to trust is there, yet organisations are only now working out how to engage meaningfully in the rapidly changing world of continuous commentary on our organisations through social media" said Mr Powell.

“The speed and reach of social media can be overwhelming" he said.  "When reputation is under strain in today’s 24/7 world, its social media responses cannot be controlled from the centre. It has to be a natural reaction and response from people inside the organisation supported with the facts to enable them to respond. Three crucial ingredients to getting it right are empowerment, engagement and authenticity."

Mr Powell identified the advent of the sharing economy - "where individuals may trust strangers more than they trust institutions“ as an important development on trust. 

 "The new sharing world allows individuals to corroborate information and experience with an entire community of straight-talking providers of feedback – people like themselves - in order to check authenticity" he said.

PwC awards, The Dorchester, October 1, 2015

PwC's  Building Public Trust Awards - now in its 13th year - is one of the longest established initiatives targeted at enhancing trust in business. Its stated purpose is to recognise organisations which show transparency and ‘tell it how it is’.

I attended the awards last night, at The Dorchester. It is a relief to hear a senior business leader in the UK devote an important occassion to comment on social media and the sharing economy - rather than dismiss it as something of a joke. I could tell stories about that.....

But instead, here are the award winners:


Excellence in reporting in the FTSE 100

Joint winners: Legal & General Group and United Utilities Group

Highly commended: British American Tobacco, The British Land Company


Excellence in reporting in the FTSE 250

Winner: Provident Financial

Highly commended: Great Portland Estates, Tullow Oil


Excellence in reporting in Private Business

Winner: John Lewis Partnership

Highly commended: Co-operative Group, Marshall of Cambridge (Holdings)


Excellence in reporting in Charities

Winner: Cancer Research UK

Highly commended: Church Commissioners for England, Save the Children UK


Excellence in reporting in the Public Sector (awarded with National Audit Office)

Winner: Department for Business Innovation & Skills

Highly commended: HM Revenue & Customs, National Savings & Investment

And mine: Best comment of the evening accepting an award: 




Categories: Communication, Engagement, Governance