Podcast: “Don’t hide from consumers”

How food companies can rebuild public trust

“We’ve been hurt, we’ve been disappointed, we’ve felt somewhat misled.” Feelings of distrust have damaged the relationship between consumers and food companies. According to Linda Eatherton, it’s time to “pull back the curtain.”

Listen to this episode of Food Forward here (20 min).

Linda Eatherton is the Managing Director of the marketing, communication and consultancy firm Ketchum. She thinks a lot about how companies can earn trust – and permission – from their customers.

A “social license to operate” has become increasingly important for running a business in the 21st century. But this isn’t a license that can be bought or reached with good PR alone, Eatherton explains. “It’s a concept that’s old and yet new again. In many cases, it’s a very simple idea: the trust between parties and partners to do business and to trade.”

Across the food and agricultural sectors, that trust has eroded, leaving the general public suspicious about where their food comes from. So what can companies do to earn a social license? Transparency is key, says Eatherton, even when there is still work to be done. Admitting you’ve made a mistake or that you are still improving earns businesses more credibility than keeping the doors shut.

In this episode of Food Forward, Eatherton explains what’s at the root of consumer distrust and how food and agriculture companies can rebuild their reputations and strengthen their relationships with their customers.

From the podcast

“The court of public opinion has never been stronger.”

“We have a really hard time making choices about food when we don’t have information.”

“Food in many people’s minds is a right, not a product. That makes it just a little bit more challenging for the industry, more intense, and more emotional.”

“There is so much information that consumers have not been privy to. Not because we didn’t have it. But because we didn’t ask for it, need it, or want it until recently.”

“It’s less important to be perfect than to innovate and open doors.”

“Relationship building, social license, will never be a marketing activity. It is an enterprise-wide, cultural business responsibility.”

Food Forward is a new Rabobank podcast featuring the innovators and agriculture experts who are changing the way we produce and consume food. Listen and subscribe on iTunes, RaboCasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.