Learn about Communication and Trust
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Monica Padillo, this chapter is titled “Building Trust and Credibility for an Unfamiliar Territory.” In it, Charina Carrido-Ocampo, the Head of Corporate Affairs at agriculture firm Monsanto Company, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy to build trust with their consumers.
Building Trust for a Productive Management
More than simply communicating the message of their organizations, corporate affairs leaders are often tasked to build trust and credibility among all of their stakeholders. This is something that Charina Garrido-Ocampo, Head of Corporate Affairs at agriculture firm Monsanto Company, is all too familiar with.
With 27 years worth of experience in the communications field as of writing, Garrido Ocampo believes that gaining the trust of stakeholders and being perceived as highly credible by them are the most valuable assets of a corporate affairs professional.
“Trust facilitates a lot of productive collaboration, effective information dissemination, and efficient issues management especially when it is most needed. When there is trust, work gets done a lot easier and faster,” she explained.
She admitted, however, that gaining the trust of stakeholders is not easy. To some extent, one might think that promoting agricultural products to a primarily agricultural country would be a breeze, but Monsanto is different: it offers genetically modified (GM) seeds which are not so common in the Philippines. They come as intimidating to some―especially farmers, organizations, and governments who are used to the traditional ways of farming―
which is why Garrido-Ocampo makes it her point to communicate the company’s offerings to as many stakeholders as possible.
“People have mixed reactions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and GM planting because they don’t know much about it. It’s something that’s not regularly talked about. It’s very science-based and technical. And so it’s not something that you read ordinarily and regularly in a magazine,” she said.
To resolve this issue, Garrido-Ocampo’s core solution was to constantly reach out to important stakeholders through online channels or face-to-face interactions. “I meet my stakeholders where they are,” she said. She uses all available platforms as long as she is able to reach out to potential and existing stakeholders and inform them of Monsanto’s offerings and purpose. And it’s not just certain key opinion leaders and government officials that she tries to reach. Garrido-Ocampo also targets ordinary individuals such as mothers, foodies, millennials, and even students as she believes GM planting is beneficial to every member of society.
When she does get a hold of important stakeholders, she makes sure that she calmly explains what GM planting and GM seeds are, as well as answer whatever questions they have to settle all their doubts and fears. Her primary goal in these conversations is to clarify rather than convince the potential stakeholders to immediately look into GM planting.
“It’s more like just trying to provide useful information and encouraging them to be open about GM crops. What’s really needed there is your own belief that the information that you share is true, accurate, and objective. When you’re armed with those, you can speak with your stakeholders very confidently and without an iota of doubt which they appreciate,” she said.
According to Garrido-Ocampo, this effort helps her create relationships built on trust and in turn makes these potential stakeholders more open-minded about Monsanto’s messages.
Once the trust is established, Garrido-Ocampo found her and her team’s work at Monsanto easier, especially when they’re hit with negative feedback.
“When your stakeholders hear negative things about your organization, they’ll tend to get your side or clarify things before they get the message out to a bigger public because they trust and like you,” she said. “That makes your work easier because you get to arrest a possible negative situation.”
On the other hand, when there are positive things said about their organization, their stakeholders can easily share their message and make other people aware about the company’s positive impact on society.
Of course, opposition to their products and efforts is still inevitable. Even when she had extensively explained what Monsanto’s work is about―backed with factual and science based explanations behind GM planting―Garrido-Ocampo was still met with resistance from different people and organizations. In this case, she continues to communicate with them and asks the reason behind their opposition.
For those who choose to remain opposed to GM planting, Garrido-Ocampo will simply focus her attention back to those who currently and will possibly support Monsanto and its innovations.
When asked why she is so adamant in reaching out to more stakeholders and tirelessly explaining what Monsanto’s offerings are, Garrido-Ocampo said that she is driven by her strong belief in the company and its positive impact on the country’s agriculture sector. She’s firm on the idea that there’s a bigger purpose beyond her role as a corporate affairs head.
“It’s not just work for me. There’s a bigger purpose to it. I really want to see our farmers flourish. I want to see their lives improve because we’re an agricultural country. And when the agriculture sector develops and improves, the country automatically develops as well,” she said.
Garrido-Ocampo added that believing in the organization’s mission and contribution to society falls directly in line with building trust and credibility among their stakeholders. This philosophy is what she wants to see in other communication professionals as well. Even if the role entails many obstacles and difficulties, communication leaders should find a purpose bigger than themselves because it will inspire them to do better when the “going gets tough.” It will also help them understand other perspectives, get a holistic view of things, and ensure that their heart is in the right place―just as what Garrido-Ocampo has experienced so far being in the communications industry.
“If you truly believe in your organization’s mission and work and you are also aligned with your organization’s values, it is not impossible to get your stakeholders on board with you. It may be difficult sometimes to convince stakeholders for many reasons, but this difficulty will only fuel your passion and determination to get them to support you, your organization, and your cause,” she said.
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Charina Carrido-Ocampo, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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