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Being the trust driver – an antidote to turmoil in troubling times


Being the trust driver – an antidote to turmoil in troubling times


Who can we trust if not the bloody Australian cricket team? Chris Freel explains his five principles of trust and prosperity for individuals and organisations to live by.

This article originally appeared in The Trust Issue, our June/July 2018 issue of Marketing magazine.

FreelTrust has always been the key ingredient of every effective relationship, whether that be in business or personal life. This is nothing new; however, at this moment, it seems that the currency of trust is more under the spotlight than ever. It is also a time where all businesses are being disrupted, and collaboration and partnerships are essential for business success.

We need to work together to redress the balance and get back to focusing on what is important for the greater good.

I don’t know if there is one single reason why we are all talking about trust right now. It seems to me that there are many catalysts that have been building to bring things to a head – Brexit, Trump, Harvey Weinstein and #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, Cambridge Analytica and the Australian cricket team with sandpaper-gate to name a few. We can’t trust politicians (nothing new there), we can’t trust law enforcement, we can’t trust the internet, women can’t trust men, men can’t trust women, we can’t even trust the bloody Australian cricket team.

What hope do we have?

Although it seems the world is coming to an end, I’d guess that this has always been the case and we are not experiencing these failures for the first time. Politicians have let us down on numerous occasions, harassment has been happening forever, and Australia has always cheated at cricket*. However, the digital age that we live in has magnified these elements and we are experiencing a technological revolution that has brought trust to the forefront.

I am not a world leader, or even a tech leader, but I do believe that the principles on which I have been raised and guided are key drivers of trust and could help to set the world back on course to a happier, more trusting place. So, for what it’s worth, here are five principles that I have picked up over the years from mentors, good humans and my granny. Organisations and individuals who follow these will grow and prosper.

I am also trying to use these to help shape my two young sons (an ongoing and, I fear, never-ending struggle).


1. Don’t cheat

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My Uncle Brian always used to cheat at cards, it is the talk of the family. Even people who have never met Uncle Brian know not to play cards with him. His brand has been scarred for life, even though he tries to maintain his innocence. Australia, and the world, has been in turmoil recently as the national cricket team ‘shamed the nation’ by ball-tampering on live TV, eventually admitting it had cheated once it realised the evidence was damning. Its brand is in tatters on a local and global scale. Australians feel let down by their heroes, who brought what it is to be an Aussie into question.

The cheating incident will be remembered for causing the damage, but what makes it worse is the inconsistent behaviour of the cricket team (like Uncle Brian) over the years. We often forgive one-off incidents, but a consistent lack of humility and authenticity is hard to come back from. Brands and fans no longer want to be associated with them and this will have a lasting impact. Athletics and cycling are indicators: years after cheating scandals emerged, the stigma remains. To have trust, brands should remember to always be authentic and well-behaved.


2. Have faith in others

If you’re too scared to go into a partnership, then you will never grow. Many organisations shy away from collaborations because of fear, a very natural fear that resolves around risk-taking. Putting faith in others is difficult; trusting them with something you’ve invested so much in does not come naturally. However, if you don’t take that leap, you will never know and will always be restricted in what you can achieve. At UnLtd we are the trusted conduit that helps to guide our charity partners into partnerships with corporate partners. We do the due diligence to ensure that these are partnerships that will work for both sides and drive win/win outcomes for all.


3. Always think long term

Chasing monthly goals and targets leads to a constant churn, always-on pressure cooker environment and doesn’t allow you to see the bigger picture. In my current job, I see this with organisations that know how important a purpose-led strategy is, but don’t instil it because they get stuck in the daily grind. Those big things that may not seem the priority at the time, often are the priority. We deliberately choose our charity partners to be those that we can have a meaningful impact on, where the skills, resources and networks of our industry can be most effective in creating positive, long-lasting change.


4. Don’t trust anybody who says ‘trust me’

While there is a need to collaborate, it must still be a measured decision. Due diligence must go into every partnership. When working for Fairfax media, an established and esteemed journalist once told me that she knew somebody was lying as soon as they said the phrase ‘to be honest…’. That was it; politicians, corporations, whoever it was, she knew that as soon as those three words came out of their mouth, she had them. They were banged to rights and the theory never let her down. The phrase ‘trust me’ is the same. It’s worth looking out for, trust me.


5. Do the right thing even when nobody’s watching

This phrase came to life for me in a recent job. A wise person reminded me of it and helped me to refocus on what was important, put my personal ambitions to the side and do the right thing. Most of us will be able to recount times when we took a shortcut, brushed something under the carpet or bent the rules to achieve an outcome. This almost always ends up in somebody losing out, being upset or having to pick up the slack. If you avoid the temptation of what often seems to be the easy solution, you will invariably end up in a better position.


UnLtd is passionate about living by these values. Trust is our currency. We have a big picture vision that every young Australian should have the same opportunities in life and we believe that, as the media, marketing and creative community, we can collectively achieve that. For that to happen we need effective partnerships, which require a huge amount of trust. We think that if we get it right we will make the massive difference that we strive for and the world will be a better place.

* I am an English cricket fan.


Chris Freel is CEO of UnLtd

Marketing is proud to have UnLtd as its Content Partner. UnLtd brings the Australian media, marketing and advertising industries together to tackle a big issue: undoing youth disadvantage. We urge you to visit unltd.org.au and get involved.


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Image credit: Noah Silliman


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