Recent years have seen public confidence in the tech sector drop, thanks to a whirlwind of high profile calamities. Billion-dollar fines for data privacy failures, corporate tax embarrassments, claims of complicity in election rigging, controversy over explosive fake news stories and exploding handsets – it appears as though no aspect of the industry has escaped unscathed.

The big names attract the most flak. A 2019 YouGov survey found that US tech giants are facing a huge crisis of confidence from US and UK internet users, with more than 40% saying they don’t trust them to lawfully manage data.

Whether you’re marketing a multinational consumer brand or a b2b startup, the success of tech firms nowadays depends largely on trust. Widespread scepticism of innovation or the regulation that oversees it will kill adoption rates from customers in the street and the boardroom.

When cynicism around tech reaches fever-pitch across newspapers, social media and in conversations happening in living rooms and pubs, it becomes an uphill battle to shine a spotlight on the good stories.

How can marketing and comms navigate these new tech-cynical times and highlight the honourable intentions and positive impact of their innovation? This is the question we’ll be asking a panel of experts at Bristol Tech Festival on 8th November – we hope to see many of you there. In the meantime, here are three ways tech communicators can begin to win back trust:

Transparency around operations – and errors – is key

Despite GDPR, terms and conditions for many apps and products still aren’t presented in anything resembling plain English and demand instant compliance from consumers. Be clear with your customer about what information they’re surrendering and how you’re using it – and remember that they own their data. Above all, remember the lesson of the Watergate scandal – it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up. Trust in tech quickly unravels when firms obfuscate over data breaches – if there has been an error, own up and publicly commit to rectifying the issue ASAP.

Think Audience-First

Tech comms has a tendency to focus on the is and outs of the innovation. While some in your audience may be appreciative of just how smart your development team have been, remember that ultimately their interest lies in how your product or service will affect them. Explain why your product matters to your audience by understanding what they need, how they behave and how you’re helping them with their challenges. Stepping back, consider which channels your audience uses and whether you’re making best use of all available avenues to reach them. Consumer brands may have a much wider audience to sell to, but b2b firms often forget that they have an advantage – it’s likely that the audience of inhouse buyers who can make or break your year can fit inside one conference hall. Consider how you’re reaching them, with editorial, marketing or via events, and the message you’re sending.

Focus On Product, Not Personalities

Tech companies who shout more about their founder’s ‘vision’ for how the world should operate are their own worst enemy. The tech boneyard is littered with companies that tried to coast on an eccentric CEO or plan to ‘lead a global revolution, one XYZ at a time’. Messaging should be centred on how your product and service will change things for your customers – pair this with interesting research or engaging content. The modern cynic is already asking how a new technology will impact the world, for better or worse – keep your communications focused on what’s in front of you.

To learn more you can register for Antidote’s panel discussion ‘ Brand-proofing for tech cynical times’ at the Bristol Technology Festival.

Alex Neale, Associate Director Antidote Communications 
Alex is an Associate Director at Antidote Communications, where she heads up the Bristol office and supports a range of clients on data-driven B2B and corp comms campaigns.