Trish Wexler methodically listed some of the phrases that, sadly, have come to define the current state of our culture.
- Truth isn’t truth
- Alternative facts
- What you’re reading and what you’re hearing isn’t what’s happening
Wexler paused to let those words sink in during her keynote at the recent Summit by Dynamic Signal conference. This is the world that we’re living in today, she concluded.
“The truth has never been more in question in my lifetime,” added Wexler, the Chief Communications Officer at Chase, the retail arm of JPMorgan Chase. “… And in our role in communications, this has deep and serious implications for what we do because our job is to build trust. So how do we build trust in this messy, post-truth world? How do you build a reputation and how do you maintain it when our government, the media, large institutions, and small institutions aren’t trusted? It’s a real challenge.”
Wexler told the audience, consisting of communicators from around the world, that perhaps their most important task is helping organizations project an image of credibility at a time when research shows a crisis in trust.
The language that we use, she said, can help combat that lack of faith. It allows organizations to stand out in a cynical, skeptical time.
“Communication plays a key role in whether or not the company is admired,” Wexler added. “It comes down to how you talk. The way you build trust is by being very authentic and very real. Without that, people don’t trust you.”
Wexler discussed some of the ways that communication has helped make JPMorgan Chase one of Fortune magazine’s Top 10 most admired companies in the world despite lingering bitterness among some about the banking industry’s role in the financial crisis a decade ago.
Speak like real people.
Wexler has a “Jargon Jar” in her office, and team members must pay a $1 fine whenever they use buzzwords such as innovate, bandwidth, align, best practice, touchpoint, or learnings.
“The reason for this is we don’t want to do corporate-speak or marketing-speak,” she told the audience. “Those words don’t mean anything. When you put them into your communication, people stop trusting you.”
Define the company voice.
Wexler described how they created a guide called “The Voice of Chase” that explains how to write and speak about the organization – like you’re having a conversation with a neighbor.
“For instance, we like to write the word ‘I’ instead of the royal ‘we,’” Wexler said. “But if we’re going to write ‘we,’ it’s instead of writing ‘Chase.’ You’re not going to see a letter that says, ‘Chase values our relationship.’ No, it’s “We value our relationship.’”
Focus on employee communication.
With 250,000 employees around the globe using 40 different communication systems, keeping everyone on the same page isn’t easy. (Please notice, Trish, that we didn’t say aligned!) It’s why Chase recently created a “war room” to modernize the company’s internal communication strategy.
“We brought together people in communication, technology, and legal and compliance to come up with the vision for the firm,” she said. “Our goal, in an ideal world, is that our channels would be personalized, customizable, mobile, social, and collaborative.”
Part of that process is implementing the Dynamic Signal platform, so employees can access internal articles on their mobile devices. The platform also enables her team to measure the impact of communication efforts as well as ensure employees only get messages that are relevant to them.
“We want to know who in the company actually watched a video and how many times,” Wexler said. “I want to know what works so I can do more of it. And we’re looking forward to being able to target our communication in ways right down to a single branch.”
She had other examples, too. The company has an emphasis on a fun social media strategy that breaks away from the typically stodgy image of banks. They’re also preparing to launch a video series designed to help employees have “real conversations” that help create a more inclusive, work environment.
But the foundation is building that trust.
“There’s so much information coming at you today,” Wexler said. “And you don’t trust most of it. As communicators, what we all want is to make people feel something that’s real and authentic.”