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Say hello to the CTrO

More and more companies are appointing a chief trust officer and making trust a strategic priority

INCREASINGLY, THERE'S A new seat at the executive boardroom table these days, with more and more firms creating the role of ‘chief trust officer’ as they navigate through the choppy waters of ethics, practices and consumer trust.

What exactly is a chief trust officer (often shortened to CTrO)? That’s a detail that’s slowly coming to be defined as companies put it into practice.

“So far, in practice, the chief trust officer’s job is to ensure company integrity and make sure companies have ethical intent behind decisions,” writes Cloey Callahan. “Chief trust officers would pay close attention to customers’ needs regarding data and trust, advocate for trust-centric decisions on the executive level and create company-wide initiatives.”

Andrew Clearwater, the CTrO at privacy company OneTrust, says the position is an evolution of existing roles, drawing from things that used to be the responsibility of the chief privacy officer or chief information officer or chief diversity officer. In his view, the role should be specifically responsible for things like the use of customer data, the maintenance of customer relationships, and practices related to employee hiring and retention.

“Trust is a fragile thing in the corporate world. Earning it from customers and communities is hard, and maintaining it is even more challenging,” writes Tiffany Xingyu Wang, chief strategy and marketing officer at Spectrum Labs.

“A chief trust officer needs to prepare to go one step further than just being the devil’s advocate. Some days the person is working with the leadership and the board to streamline trust-related efforts, uncover roadblocks, shape allyship and get resources. On other days, the person needs to be the existing brand’s true nemesis, going against everything that has made the company extensive and successful, to drive trust into the heart of the business.” Kieran Delamont


Why so damn cranky?

For many consumers, the re-entry into polite society is proving to be a little bumpy

MAYBE YOU’VE NOTICED it on the roads, with drivers being a little bit more impatient than usual. Or maybe you’ve seen it in line for your coffee, with customers seeming a bit more antsy for things to hurry up. Or in the store, where a shopper might unload on a staff member for one reason or another. The good news is, it’s not just you: coming out of the pandemic, people are behaving worse to each other in public.

Data from the Institute of Customer Service found that as lockdown measures eased, staff members have seen customer behaviour worsen, with more than half having experienced abuse from customers during the pandemic.

But pandemic-specific stress has spiralled into a more diffuse, harder-to-explain form of stress and anxiety that ultimately shows up in situations where people interact with each other. “When people have to meet each other in transactional settings,” writes Sarah Lyall in The New York Times, "in stores, on airplanes, over the phone on customer-service calls — they are…devolving into children.”

Many of us might have noticed this tendency in ourselves. (In my own case, a recent insurance renewal process, handled mostly via customer service phone lines, admittedly brought out the worst in me.) The good news though is that if we can recognize it, we can start to address it, according to experts.

In addition to reminding ourselves that the person on the other side of the counter is likely trying their best (and almost certainly working in a short-staffed environment), one of the biggest things a person can do is practice flexibility. After a few years where we have grown accustomed to little variation in our days, it could pay to start to inject some.

“You need to have variability in your life. And if you actually practice it ahead of time, you’re not so upset when the unexpected occurs,“ San Diego-based psychologist Reena Patel told the BBC. “If things don’t go the way you want, you’re not so stressed about it. You don’t want to be rigid in your expectations.” Kieran Delamont

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Podcast payola

That big-name guest might not have appeared on your favourite podcast out of the kindness of their heart

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OVER THE LAST decade, podcasts have taken the media world by storm, growing from a niche market into one of the most in-demand products, with most media companies having at least one ― and frequently many ― podcast among their offerings.

And they’ve been a major indie media success as well, with plenty of upstart podcasts now pulling in seven-figure revenues every year as advertisers have flocked to the platform.

But a Bloomberg investigation last week is putting the podcast industry under the microscope after revealing the extent that the pay-to-play model has penetrated the medium, with some guests ― often presented as experts being tapped for their unfiltered opinions ― paying out as much as $50,000 to be interviewed.

“Welcome to the golden era of pay-for-play podcasting, when guests pay handsomely to be interviewed for an entire episode,” the report reads. It noted that this practice has become especially common in a few high-traffic podcast genres: business, crypto and wellness podcasts.

The figures being paid by guests has raised some debate around the ethics of the practice. Many other content creators on apps like Instagram or TikTok are required by law to disclose when they are being paid to feature a product or service. (An Instagram post might include a #ad to signify this, for instance.) Some defend the practice, suggesting it is a marketing investment for the guest, with some paying guests leveraging high-profile appearances into further sales, books and other media appearances.

Others believe it’s a grey area that dresses up ads as authentic content and compare it to the “payola” scandal of the 1950s, when music distributors were first caught paying radio stations for airtime. “The podcast industry — similarly to the influencer industry on social media — is taking advantage of a gap in oversight when it comes to how companies and individuals accept paid promotion,” writes Axios.

Some PR professionals advise against it, for both the podcast and the guests. “It’s a grey area, but it’s payola,” Jon Bier, CEO and founder of public-relations firm Jack Taylor, told Bloomberg. “I’m getting into just the opposite of what I believe in, which is curation, creativity and authenticity.” Kieran Delamont

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The Bic stops here

Put your digital devices away, folks. Research shows we’re better when using pen and paper

IF YOU CARRY a smartphone, you have more computing power in your pocket right now than was used to send the first man to the moon ― to say nothing of your laptop, tablet or desktop computer.

But while those powerful tools can help unlock all sorts of possibilities, a growing body of evidence is showing that in many circumstances, you simply can’t beat pen and paper.

Take decision making. A study published earlier this year found that when business leaders are tasked with making a decision, they are likely to make more virtuous choices when they do so using pen and paper.

“Why might this be?” the researchers asked. “Our research suggests that the key mechanism driving this effect is how ‘real’ the decision feels… When a decision felt more real, participants were more likely to feel that it was representative of who they were as a person, ultimately making them more likely to go with the virtuous or responsible option.”

There are other benefits, too. Those who take notes by hand in meetings have been found to retain information better than those who note-take on a laptop or tablet. During deeper work, experts say that working with pen and paper can improve their ability to synthesize information and work in non-linear ways. And it’s common for people to report that they feel more creative when working in a notebook than when working in a word processor.

“It may seem like a minor detail, but our research shows that the medium with which your customers, employees or community members make a decision can have a major impact on the choices they make,” the researchers conclude. “Parents and educators might opt to provide students with paper rather than online book order forms… charities and political groups may also benefit from paper pledge forms and volunteer sign-up sheets, rather than relying on websites or apps to solicit support.”

And if all that’s not enough to convince you, maybe the bold statement made by publicly using pen and paper might be enough to get you to try it. “Does a world leader sign a treaty via email confirmation?” asks one writer. “No ― they use a fountain pen.” Kieran Delamont


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