Building trust with clients and the public

October 1, 2020

For Moshe Debby, founder and chairman of the Debby Group, the Tel Aviv-based public relations, marketing communications and digital strategy agency, the establishment of trust is especially important during the corona pandemic, when the public has seemingly lost confidence in its institutions.

Research conducted by his group measuring the degree of the public’s trust in four key public institutions – government, business, nonprofit organizations and the media – concluded that the level of the public’s trust is declining in all four groups, Debby shares. Interestingly, among these groups, people placed the highest level of confidence in heads of companies and nonprofit organizations.

“Heads of companies play a big role in their companies and workers expect the companies and their heads to take a greater responsibility to fill the vacuum where the government doesn’t operate,” he says.

Debby explains that some companies offer benefits that governments used to provide. For example, during the pandemic, IBM offered free retraining courses for anyone – not just for its workers. Debby says that his clients, particularly those in the area of hi-tech, need to be aware of this trend.

“I tell all of my customers in tech that they have a socially important role, not only as employers but as agents of change. We are living in a period of uncertainty; as of yet, there is no vaccine for corona. We need leaders to fill the vacuum of uncertainty caused by the government, to step into the vacuum that governments have created.” Regarded as one of Israel’s most creative, strategic, and experienced PR, branding, and messaging experts, Debby established his firm some 15 years ago after serving as a communications adviser for two foreign ministers and two treasury secretaries. He also was the government spokesman at the Camp David II meetings in 2000.

Profound changes have occurred in the marketing and communications world in the past 15 years, he says.

“The main difference is digital, with social media and ‘fake news.’ In the media world of 15 or 20 years ago, public relations agencies, governments and organizations had ample time to react to news headlines. Now, however, in the age of social media, when everything is reported almost instantaneously, there is little time to respond.

There are websites for all newspapers, plus social media.

“Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat – messages can come from many places.” He says that the 24-hour news cycle makes it unlikely that one will learn something new on the 8 p.m. news that has not already been reported or heard earlier in the day.

The immediacy and speed of today’s news cycle mean that companies, as well as individuals, must get their messages across quickly and in a short time. Most important is that they must be transparent and honest in delivering their message.

“Mistakes are forgiven,” he says, “but lies are not forgiven. The public will punish you immediately if you lie and are misleading.”

Building trust with the public must be done carefully, and over a period of time. Investing in building trust may reduce company profits in the short term but will lead to greater profitability in the long run.

Fake news – untrue information presented as fact – has rapidly increased due to the digital revolution. False claims spread in seconds across the Internet can influence governments, organizations and private citizens. Clients must learn the details and react immediately if they become victims of false claims generated by the media.

“Fake news is a part of our lives; it will not disappear.”

THE DEBBY GROUP, with a staff of 50, is an affiliate of Edelman, the world’s largest media company, and has conducted high-level marketing campaigns for leading companies such as Waze, Unilever, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, Saban Capital Group and HP. Debby says that one of his most challenging and most rewarding projects was the promotion of Eva’s Story, a memorial project about the diary of Eva Heiman, a 13-year-old Jewish girl who was murdered in Auschwitz.

Conceived by entrepreneur Mati Kochavi and his daughter, Maya, the project came in first as the judges’ choice in the Webby Award’s “Best Use of Stories” category for 2020. It was constructed as a series of 220 Instagram stories that rolled out in 48 hours, documenting the life of an ordinary girl, as if social networks had existed during World War II. The story starts with Eva’s calm and happy-go-lucky childhood in Hungary and ends with her death in the Nazi gas chambers in Auschwitz. Eva’s Story became the most successful commemoration project in the world, with over 300 million views worldwide. The project won unprecedented media coverage in over 70 countries, which brought it to the attention of about a billion people.

Debby Group led the public relations in Israel and worldwide for the project. In less than two weeks from posting, Eva’s Instagram account amassed 1.6 million followers – 10 million interactions within 12 hours and 200 million searches on Google. Global leaders, celebrities and social media opinion leaders helped promote the project – including interactions with and endorsements from the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, American stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman, actress Gal Gadot and others.

“We were very proud to be partners in the project,” he says, “to help reach the younger generation in a creative way to educate today’s youth about the Holocaust and antisemitism.”

While Debby concedes that the digital revolution has made inroads into the speed at which news travels, he is not concerned that computers will take over from human copywriters.

“Computers can be helpful and can provide support, but they will not replace the connection between human beings.”

That, he notes, is the most crucial component of an effective marketing and advertising campaign.

“In the end, the connection between people is what is most important – to look at each other in the eye, and to shake your customer’s hand.”

He chuckles and delivers perhaps the best news of all.

“Yes, we will return to shaking hands after corona.”

This article was written in cooperation with the Debby Group.

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